“Poverty eradication is not going to happen by just handing out charity to the poor, however helpful that is.  What is required is a well organised systemic rearrangement of how resources are accumulated and distributed.  Poverty eradication is not possible if we simply focus on the individual’s wealth.  That could lead to jealousy, bitterness or even self-hate on the part of the poor or inflated perceptions of benevolence, pride or arrogance on the part of the rich”, opined by Rev. Dr. Collin Cowan, General Secretary of Council for World Mission (CWM) in his keynote address during the first colloquium on New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA), out of the three-part series. 35 representatives of the member churches of CWM Pacific Region organized this important programme from 15 to 17 March 2017 in Suva, Fiji.

He continued saying that the theology of personal salvation, which promotes heaven with all its gold, as a futuristic phenomenon reserved for the sufferers of this world, is convenient for the free market consumer Ideology.  This theology suggests that it is okay for the poor to remain in their misery now since their reward (for suffering?) is in heaven.  While we are busy promoting this theology, the unregulated Free Market economy wreaks havoc on the worlds’ resources; excessive greed multiplies; and the few continue to prey on the many. He further stated that “we want to explore together, a language by which you can help with the process of mobilisation of the people in your context to take seriously the invitation to life.  We want you to become instruments of change processes in your community, with the community as the target of your efforts as well as the greatest of your assets.”

The current Financial and Economic Architecture has not addressed poverty eradication, inequality and ecological destruction particularly in developing countries. People living in poverty are denied and deprived of basic human rights to the gifts of God’s creation, by the social systems, designed to feather the social appetite of the few at the expense of the many.  It is therefore imperative to work on an economy of life. CWM envisages a vision to replace the present unregulated market economy and unjust financial governance structures with an economy of life, where all God’s creation is considered, grassroots economies affirmed and supported and alternative structures considered. This Colloquium is part of a process of engaging CWM member churches to begin working on a new financial and economic architecture from the grassroots level. The work is to influence policy makers regarding financial policies that will focus on addressing issues of poverty eradication and ecological justice and to enable churches to start specific initiatives that enhance an economy of life by promoting grassroots economies.

The colloquium started with inaugural Worship led by Rev. Dr. Upolu Vaai, Acting Principal, Pacific Theological College. During the first day, CWM NIFEA Consultant Dr Rogate Mshana discussed in detail the Sao Paulo Statement and the Ecumenical Panel Framework of Action on NIFEA. The participants also shared to the plenary the stories they have brought from their own churches. These sessions helped with the understanding of the problem and the contextual reality.

The participants were encouraged by Bible studies on Ecological and Economic Justice by Dr. Holger Szesnat. On the second day, economist and finance experts Ms Rosario Guzman, Dr Marie Aimee Tourres, and Ms Athena Peralta discussed on poverty, linking Finance and real economy and ecological justice in terms of NIFEA. The participants then went for exposure visits to local poor communities and those affected by climate change in Suva.

On the third day, the participants worked out a framework of action in preparation for the second colloquium. During the discussion, they affirmed that the challenges highlighted in the Sao Paolo statement are true and relevant to the island nations. According to them, “the dire climactic challenges faced in the Pacific islands, geographical isolation, and the vulnerability of island nation financial structures to the world markets are just a few cues that their own communities are affected by policies that do not support an economy of life, but instead continue to oppress the majority and advance the few.”

As a result, the participants registered its support for promotion of economy of life through the Suva Statement and committed the call to the Church to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God with the hope of being agents of peace and seeking justice in establishing the reign of God. (Micah 6:8).