The G20 Interfaith Forum is an annual platform that brings together religious leaders, policymakers, and diverse faith actors to collaborate on global agendas, within the broad framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year’s agenda will address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian and development issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, migration, conflict, gender equality, and climate change. The Forum ensures that religious voices are integral partners in global relief efforts. These discussions contribute to the annual G20 Leaders’ Summit, which is the premier forum for international economic cooperation.
Jean-François de Lavison was asked to chair the session “Post-Covid, Ethical and Practical Challenges of the Here and Now, reconstruction” on September 14, with the following speakers:
- Katherine Marshall, Senior Fellow at the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, Georgetown University
- David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs at the American Jewish Committee
- Khushwant Singh, Head of Secretariat at the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD)
- David H. Moore, Associate Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies
We share below the introduction of this session.
We need to collaborate better and share more. By necessity, the coming years will be different to what we are used to. The immense damage of this pandemic means we will be forced to change how we work and our models for living. This is an opportunity.
Healthcare means addressing disease prevention, wellbeing, sanitation, affordability, access and treatment. Religious communities live closest to the most vulnerable people in the world. Religious communities have enormous power to change attitudes and behaviors in all these areas.
The potential gains from the deep engagement of faith communities in delivering healthcare, including mental healthcare, are enormous and great opportunities are being missed.
Platforms at all levels are needed to facilitate this process, from small, local communities to large global forums. But care must be taken to make the best possible use of existing structures and initiatives rather than duplicating work already done. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel and it has to be an inter-religious approach.
Faith communities and organizations can play many roles to achieve universal health coverage. Like other constituencies, faith bodies must play a crucial role in the larger global public health partnerships from which they are currently too often excluded. Without their full engagement and partnership, universal health coverage will never be achieved.
Faith communities have the resources to be first-class strategic and operational partners. In many countries, they own and run more than half of the health facilities. Taken together, religious organizations have the investment power and they invest for the long term – thinking in terms of generations, not three- or five-year programs.
A few examples:
Sarvodaya (Sri Lanka): A number of lessons have emerged. Faith communities have important roles not just in service delivery and emergencies, but also in addressing the determinants of health: social inclusion, gender, justice, care for children born into poverty. Mutual learning is needed in these fields.
Muhammadiyah (Indonesia) coordinates 115 hospitals all over the country.
CHAG (ACHAG) Ghana: In most African countries 30-70% of healthcare is provided by faith organizations of one kind or another.
Pastoral da Criança (Brazil), Friendship (Bangladesh), Shanti Ashram (India), Maryknoll Sisters (Guatemala), the Tibetan community (Dharamsala) and many others…
We need to develop innovative models. More and better partnerships are needed.
Religious organizations can also play an important role in helping the healthcare industry become more patient-centric. The industry lacks the expertise and legacy to connect with communities and make its products and services truly accessible. Partners are needed to bridge this gap. The industry is more open, today, to this type of dialogue, than it has been in the past.
Great change requires great leadership. The world needs new and better leadership models based on understanding, empathy, compassion, courage and self-confidence: leaders who cultivate atmospheres of cooperation and collaboration involving women, men and youth.
Just as it is necessary to involve the wealthy in the fight against poverty, it is also necessary to apply local solutions to global challenges – to bring together the wisdom and experience of age with the dynamism and enthusiasm of youth so that younger generations are guided but allowed to take leadership of their lives – of their own lives.
The challenge for Ahimsa is to continue the work we were founded to do: to strive together to advance the values that unite us rather than highlighting the differences that separate us.
In conclusion, we can bring together diverse, opposing perspectives to change mindsets around the world of global health. We can adopt shared goals and methods that work in the aftermath of COVID-19.
The ambitious targets that we have set ourselves, like universal health coverage, will no longer be just worthy aspirations but real, achievable goals.