Tony Blair foundation calls on Primate, interfaith leaders for MDGs support

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, says he was encouraged by a Dec. 5 round table co-hosted by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the Belinda Stronach Foundation in Toronto. The meeting gathered 30 Canadian faith leaders to plan cooperative action towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight targets for improving the lives of the world’s poorest, by 2015.

Beth Lorimer and Heather Pearson also attended as representatives from the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund youth council. Other leaders and youth delegates represented Sikh, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahá’í, and Muslim communities.

At the round table, delegates learned about the foundations’ work and asked questions about interfaith cooperation globally and in Canada. Blair’s foundation, started in May 2008, promotes respect between world religions so they can work together for global good.

“I believe that people of different religious faiths and spiritual beliefs care about the issues of development and human justice captured in the MDGs,” said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an earlier statement. “[They] have a remarkable ability to collaborate and mobilize resources at the community level.”

The Dec. 5 round table was welcomed by Archbishop Hiltz, who is publicly passionate about the MDGs. He joined the MDG march at the July Lambeth Conference and led one in Ottawa on Sept. 25. He also upholds the goals in his cross-Canada visits, and he said he sees a growing interest in achieving them.

“The time will come sooner or later when we have that people power to stand up and say to the government, ‘you have to honour the commitments you’ve made to the poor,'” said the Primate. (The European Union and G8 countries have committed, but so far failed, to contribute 0.7% of their gross national incomes to official development assistance.)

Archbishop Hiltz noted three MDGs that are critical to current Canadian Anglican work: eliminating extreme poverty, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, and preserving the environment. He said that the church needs to raise its sights from internal struggles, and recognize that it is not alone in working towards good goals like the MDGs.

Out of this initial round table discussion, the Blair and Stronach foundations will form an interfaith steering group to advance the MDGs, and to take particular action against malaria, a priority of Stronach’s foundation and part of the sixth MDG.

The meeting also served as the Canadian launch of Faiths Act Fellows, a program that will train 30 young people as inter-religious ambassadors for the MDGs.

“It was encouraging to see faith groups wanting to take more of a role in the decision-making around international issues rather than having to always go through government,” said Ms. Lorimer, a youth representative. “It’s a strong body if all the different faith groups are combined and state their case.”

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