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Churches worldwide are preparing to challenge economic globalization
"Globalization in Central and Eastern Europe - Responses to the ecological, economic and social consequences" is the title of a consultation taking place in Budapest, 23-29 June, under the joint sponsorship of the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the European Area Committee of WARC (EAC). Participants will analyze the economic consequences of the reshaping of national economies after the breakdown of the communist bloc. According to the organizers, "the time has come to take a closer look at what is really going on in the various countries of the region".
More than a decade after the dramatic changes in central and eastern Europe, the issues are more pressing than ever. According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, about 14 million people in the former communist bloc lived on less than four dollars a day in 1989. By the mid-1990s, that number had risen to about 147 million. Moreover, some countries in central and eastern Europe are confronted with a decline of life expectancy and a remarkable rise in suicide rates and crime.
The consultation will not only take a closer look at the present situation, but will explore alternative models to the current economic paradigm based on the neoliberal school of thought, in an effort to reflect the experience and aspirations of people in the region.
A statement from the Budapest meeting will join voices and perspectives from churches in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean, North America, Latin America and the Pacific at a global consultation in Nadi, Fiji, 12-17 August. More than 50 participants are invited to the global consultation to share their experiences under the theme "Economic Globalization: The Island of Hope".
Pacific churches have already formulated a contribution on alternatives to economic globalization in preparation for this global consultation. In a final document from a preparatory meeting in Fiji, 28 - 30 May, Pacific churches stressed that "globalization in the Pacific is like a tidal wave that strikes with a powerful force, dominates and suppresses developing new forms of life" and has a negative effect on traditional identities, values and faith. They "embrace the concept of the Island of Hope, that affirms life-centred values" and is "in solidarity with the land and the sea and natural resources", as well as being "sustainable and wholesome".
The forthcoming gatherings in Budapest and Nandi are part of a consultation process that began in the Asian Region - in Bangkok in 1998 - when WCC and WARC jointly organized a consultation on "Globalization and Status Confessionis". Further consultations are planned for Western Europe, Latin and North America and Africa in 2002 and 2003. It is expected that the conference series will enable the WARC to declare economic globalization as a matter of church confession - status confessionis - at its 2004 general council. Similarly, the WCC is working on a theological analysis of alternatives to economic globalization in preparation for its next assembly.
Initial results of the consultation on "Globalization in Central and Eastern Europe" will be presented to the public at a press conference on Thursday, 28 June, 14h30-15h30, in the Diszterem (Plenary Hall) on the second floor of Raday College, Raday u. 28, Budapest IX.
A concept paper for the Budapest consultation entitled Globalization in Central and Eastern Europe: Responses to the ecological, economic and social consequences is available on this website
as are other documents related to what the WCC is doing on economic globalization.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.