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Religions Should Teach About Money too: Patriarch urges

24 October 2003:

Meeting of International Interfaith Investment Group at the Patriarchate in Istanbul

This speech was made by His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. at the inauguration of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG) on Heybiliada (Halki) Island near Istanbul in Turkey. October 22 2003.

“Today we have in mind the pioneering work of His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, who launched the Alliance of Religions and Conservation in 1995. This was a time of great new initiatives on the environment and we were pleased to cooperate with His Royal Highness in his role as President of the World Wide Fund for Nature International and are honoured to have him as co-founder of the Halki Institute of Ecology. While he pioneered in changing the thinking in the secular world, we strove to affect the world through the religious mind, particularly by drawing from our own Orthodox faith on the issue of the environmental crisis.

“In emphasising our obligations to God, to His creation and to each other, we often ended up in the same sort of places, addressing the problems of the pollution of our rivers, lakes and seas, despoliation of our lands and the destruction of habitats, both of living species of plants and animals.

“While our efforts did in some cases influence governments and enlighten both our faithful and the general population, we searched anew for effective means to address the ever-critical state of our environment, as well as the deplorable conditions under which so great a part of humanity subsists and the injustices they endure.

"Positive and protective investment requires special acumen, diligence and wisdom. Technologies become obsolete and there are many false or exaggerated claims. We must act what the real value is of an investment. Perhaps it will be a desirable material benefit that does not bring a return."
“Not only must the individual person change and recognise his role and responsibilities and the consequences of his daily choices, but also nations, communities, institutions, businesses and indeed our communities of faith must assess their role and responsibilities together with the impact of their policies and practices on the environment and the human condition. And in doing so we must always be mindful. First that "oikologia" (in Greek, the maintenance of the house) implies for us the maintenance of God’s house: His Creation. And second that "oikonimia" (in Greek, the principles that govern the house) implies for us the principles of maintaining God’s house: our living planet.

“In fact religious institutions themselves must examine their use of land and buildings and – yes – investments, to insure that they do not harm the environment or the human family but rather improve our natural surroundings and the conditions of our lives. And we must seek ways to go about this that go beyond pronouncements, speeches and books, as important as these can be.

“We need a set of principles. In a Joint Declaration with His Holiness Pope John Paul II last year in Venice we attempted to start that process, one that had been taken up by our Orthodox Church Primates. But we need greater specificity and more effective tools, as well as the collaboration of all institutions and peoples – religious and secular.

“So here we have out of those early efforts (by the Grace of God and the energies of His Royal Highness Prince Philip) the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) gathering like Noah all living things – in this case species of believers and bankers, of faithful financiers and specialists of all kinds. And we also have ARC creating a new and intriguing creature – the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG) - meeting here in the sacred site of Halki. [This is the place] where a monastery was established in the early Christian centuries and a renowned school of Theology shone in the nineteenth century and where in the past decade we founded the Halki Institute of Ecology to forge principles, aims and objectives with representatives of some 11 world faiths, including our Orthodox Church, the World Wide Fund for Nature International, the World Bank, Citigroup, Rabobank of the Netherlands, economists, money managers and thinkers, dealing with all aspects of environmental action and education, social justice and human rights.

“Now in “3iG” you are squarely facing three of the most critical “i”s in our increasingly global economic environment – the interface of our natural environment and economics, the interface of religion and economics and the interface of justice and economics.

“You have measured the economic world of our religious groups and assessed the power they can generate when working cooperatively or in groupings, not only to insure sound environmental and social policy and guidelines but, as you say, to “positively and profitably act in a proactive way to shape a better world consistent with their fervently and more often than not commonly held beliefs.

“This new creature from ARC, in defining its goals, will for example identify energy opportunities for investment, in which the environment, human welfare and human rights, are of paramount concern, giving religious groups a powerful presence in the global marketplace.

“Our religious communities have a special responsibility to utilize these tools and to educate our faithful in the proper and ethical use of monies. From its very beginnings, Christianity linked the love of God and the love of humankind, the true “philanthropia” literally love of man is the link of love that spawned the first hospital, orphanage and institutional aid to the poor and hungry in Constantinople, while monasteries practiced good ecological policies – practices that spread to the West and that we tend to take for granted today.

“The contemporary world is far more complex, and governments have taken on the role of social policy and environmental policy while businesses have the greatest impact on economic well-being and the environment. However economic justice, protection of women and children, the poor and the helpless, as well as protection of the environment, far too often fall into the cracks of a shattered world.

“All faiths that cherish God the Creator must cherish His Creation and His image, the human person – and must arise and act in this crisis of the mind and the heart. We must remember the words of St John, beloved of our Lord, which we paraphrase. You cannot say you love God whom you have not seen, and despoil his Creation which you see every day.

“However we live in a growingly secular world and we need to engage all elements that work toward the good. ARC and now 3iG bring us the tools needed to operate effectively as we, the world’s faiths, provide the stability and long-term view that is needed to engage these issues. With significant investments from religious groups in innovative projects such as alternative energy, job creation, affordable housing and micro-financing to name a few of the issues you have identified, we can realise a major shift toward ethical consciousness, as well as material benefits that advance the healing of our wounded planet.

”Yet we must be clear as we move forward together on our principles and on our criteria. After all we are stewards too, of our financial resources, and they must support our critical ministries for the benefit of so many in direct and dire need. No doubt a joint venture of religious and secular groups can bring benefits to both, but we must always count the cost.

“Clearly we must declare an end to investments in companies that do not adhere to safety standards, child labor laws and high standards of environmental, economic and social protection. That is not so difficult to determine. Here we need to remember the words of our Lord in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” The reverse is also true. “Your heart is where you should put your treasure.” In essence, what you love and what you believe in is where you should place your assets and monies.

“But positive and protective investment requires special acumen, diligence and wisdom. Technologies become obsolete and there are many false or exaggerated claims. We must act what the real value is of an investment. Perhaps it will be a desirable material benefit that does not bring a return.

“The best model may be the university that spends money or receives aid for research and development, and develops significant products that benefit humankind and eventually generate profit to advance its overall goals.

“These are questions with which we must grapple. But the reason for your coming, the meeting of our faith communities with such institutions as the World Bank and the presence of such skilled participants in the financial sector, augurs well for our future in the “real world” as many of you would say it offers us a true “arc” of meaningful survival.

“Noah, we remind you, had a rainbow covenant with God to protect biodiversity, to ensure the continuation of Creation and that humankind would know its Author and maker. That “spiritually real” dimension made all the difference to his future and to ours.

“May God abundantly bless your deliberations.”


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