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At Global Faith Forum, Apostle Shares Seven Ways Religions Can Help Society Prosper

Elder Gong and Sister Eubank share Latter-day Saint perspectives on promoting peace, strengthening human dignity and caring for the planet

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to global faith leaders gathered in Japan Saturday about seven ways religions can address sustainable development goals that can achieve peace and help people thrive and care for the planet. Elder Gong was joined at the sixth annual G20 Interfaith Forum by his wife, Susan, and Sister Sharon Eubank (who participated on a Sunday panel) of the Church’s Relief Society General Presidency.

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“Throughout history, religion has provided inspiration, discipline and transcendence, as well as moral wellsprings of faith, hope and goodwill,” said Elder Gong. “They have helped define what is just, right, and in the common good.”

A key purpose of the forum was to prepare recommendations for the larger G20 Summit to be held next month in Osaka. Specific areas of concern during the two-day conference were refugees, cross-cultural tensions, health, children, aging societies and the care of the earth.

Read Elder Gong's full transcript: Seven Ways Religious Inputs and Values Contribute to Practical, Principle-Based Policy Approaches

The Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who addressed the forum theme of “People, Peace, Planet: Pathways Forward,” told the gathered leaders that religious communities can help promote human and ecological flourishing in these seven ways:

  1. Inspire and sustain essential human freedoms
  2. Offer spiritual, philosophical and moral experiences that contribute to human potential and development
  3. Be a practical source of volunteers, professional resources, motivation, training and funding for international development
  4. Respond to immediate needs, such as those that arise with natural disasters, and address long-term human needs such as those of refugees, chronic needs for food, shelter, education and employment training, and support for those needing water, sanitation, handicap mobility and vision care
  5. Offer a unique connection between international and local organizations
  6. Offer important diversity in interfaith expertise and capacity
  7. Offer unique experiences to the rich human storehouse of practical, principle-based approaches to sustainable development

“In my now-global religious community, our experience includes the spirit of ‘making the desert blossom as the rose,’” Elder Gong said. “Across the earth in manifold diverse circumstances, members of my religious community promote inner and collective peace, protect and treasure precious natural resources, foster harmonious social cooperation and invite mutual respect for religious freedom and core moral values.”

Elder Gong also spoke about how Latter-day Saint Charities (the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and three of its programs (Humanitarian Services, Self-Reliance Services, and JustServe) promote people, peace and planet. For example, the Church has done humanitarian service in 141 countries and territories on 2,885 projects with over 1,900 partners. The faith’s Perpetual Education Fund has helped tens of thousands of individuals in approximately 75 countries gain an education otherwise beyond their reach. The Church’s Self-Reliance Service courses have helped 691,000 individuals in 130 countries. And the Church’s JustServe initiative (an online platform that connects people with service opportunities in their communities) has 434,500 volunteers. Since 2012, cumulative JustServe projects posted online number nearly 70,000. There are 14,846 JustServe projects currently posted.

Sister Eubank spoke of the importance of asking better questions to more effectively tackle the problem of violence against children and the planet.

“I have been moved by the interest and level of participation in Japan,” Sister Eubank said. “We need to prepare ourselves to ask laser-pointed questions of G20 leaders. As has been suggested this morning, we need more compelling data. We have heard that 84 percent of the world’s population is affiliated with a religious organization. The cost of not stopping violence against children is $7 trillion. The cost of violence against the planet is $4 trillion. These are staggering figures. We need to prepare better to communicate this to G20 leaders.”

Sir John Key, a former prime minister of New Zealand, said the interfaith gathering is an example of the importance of hearing about the good that religion does.

“As a leader of a country, you see the very worst in people, but you also see the very best,” Key said. “Political leaders struggle to hear the voice of religion because the media highlights the bad. But the very best is shown in the outpouring of the nature of persons of faith to help those in need during times of crisis.”

Mohammed Abu-Nimer, senior advisor with KAIICID, expressed concern with society’s collective inability to deal with differences.

“We focus on our common values and shared rituals but are uncomfortable with our differences,” he said. “We need a global culture for the respect of life.”

Lord George Carey of Clifton agreed with Abu-Nimer’s concern, but added, “Religions build bridges. That is what we do.”

Rabbi Diana Gerson of New York City stressed the need for all to learn from each other. “Just as a small piece of fabric by itself may be dull or ordinary,” she said, “when added to the tapestry of life with small pieces of fabric of many colors, it becomes a beautiful quilt, right before our eyes.”

Sister Eubank told Church media afterward that such interfaith gatherings are essential to solve important problems and knit the globe together in unity.

“The world is darkening and splintering and all of us feel it in whatever society we live in,” she said. “But this kind of interfaith work is a unifying pull from the Holy Ghost — that all people of faith feel — that will allow us to bring things back together. My personal belief is that as we work together on these issues the earth will be prepared to receive our Savior Jesus Christ when He comes again.”

Read Elder Gong's full transcript: Seven Ways Religious Inputs and Values Contribute to Practical, Principle-Based Policy Approaches

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