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WCC looks for alternatives to globalization

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Paulino Menezes, WCC

Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany addresses a session on economic justice.
Feb. 17, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (UMNS) — In the Lord’s Prayer, Christians say, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

But where does that bread come from?

Increasingly, as the Rev. Nancy Cardoso Pereira, a Brazilian Methodist, pointed out to participants at the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly, bread and cereal items — along with meat and dairy products — come from transnational corporations located in the United States and Europe.

“So, ?on earth as in heaven,’ globalized capitalism ? is punishing farmers in poor countries, whom they are treating as permanent debtors, while at the same time, the debts of agriculture in rich countries are being cancelled in the form of subsidies, tariffs and free trade treaties — and there is no one who ?can deliver us from that evil,’” she declared.

Cardoso spoke during a Feb. 16 plenary session on economic justice. That issue will be a continuing topic of discussion during the Feb. 14-23 WCC assembly in Porto Alegre.

In a press conference before the session, Cardoso said globalization has been particularly hard on Latin America. “What we call globalization is the new face ? of a savage capitalism,” she explained.

It’s an economic system created by a specific policy first developed in the 1980s by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to Yashpal Tandon, an economist from Uganda and executive director of the South Centre, a think tank in Geneva, Switzerland.

The policy has only generated more poverty in the past 20 years, he said, and the assembly “must challenge this ideology that masquerades as science/economics.”

Bishop Wolfgang Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany opened the session by noting that the Christian faith cannot be neutral on issues of economic justice. “Economic decisions do not produce ethical values,” he added.

The WCC has been discussing the phenomenon of globalization since its 1998 assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, and developed a document called Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth (AGAPE), which was finalized by the executive committee last September.

Written in the form of a uniting prayer, AGAPE invites the churches “to act together for transformation of economic injustice and to continue analyzing and reflecting on challenges of economic globalization and the link between poverty and wealth.”

Alternatives to the current system can be achieved and are already happening in some places on the local level, according to Tandon.

“People are experimenting with creating their own currencies or exchanging goods and services using the barter system,” he explained. “They are pooling their labor together to build boreholes and damming rivers to generate electricity. They are growing food in abandoned lands to fight against hunger and poverty, collecting waste and turning them into assets for survival.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS Web-only photo by Paulino Menezes, WCC

Terauango Beneteri, of the Kiribati Protestant Church, offers a presentation on "The Island of Hope."
One specific alternative, called “The Island of Hope,” can be found in the Pacific Islands, according to Terauango Beneteri of the Kiribati Protestant Church.

The program emphasizes communal life and ownership of resource bases, family ties, spirituality, traditional economy and cultural values. “The Island of Hope represents life-center values deeply rooted in Pacific communities, which provide an orientation for a just and sustainable economy and a life of dignity,” she said.

“We don’t have to have globalization,” Cardoso told the assembly. “All we have to have is solidarity and passion for life.”

Churches also have discovered that trade issues must be considered “if our fight against poverty is going to make a difference,” according to Baffour Amoa, chief executive of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa, who was part of a press briefing organized by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

Atle Sommerfeldt, chief executive of Norwegian Church Aid — which has partner relationships with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Church World Service — said the World Trade Organization is the only realistic way to regulate the “most powerful actors” in free trade. But churches need to find a way to ensure the WTO process becomes more focused on justice to the less powerful nations, he said.

“The true measure of trade should be the measure of its impact on those already on the margins,” added Mary Corkery, executive director of the KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

Video Summary

Plenary on Economic Justice

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