World religious leaders meeting in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo in advance of the summit of the Group of Eight industrial nations have urged G8 countries to cut military spending to finance environmental protection measures. “Massive defense expenditures, a global total of US$1.34 trillion in 2007 … both directly assaults the ecosystem and squanders monies that urgently need to be directed to sustainable development,” the religious leaders said in their “Call from Sapporo” issued on July 3. The representatives of different faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Japan’s Shintoism stated that, “It is a grave contradiction to advocate for a reduction of global warming gas emissions while simultaneously maintaining or even expanding military expenditure.”The final document was presented at the end of the July 2 to 3 meeting to a representative of the Japanese government, which is hosting this year’s G8 summit from July 7 to 9 in Sapporo on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.”We are united in our call to the G8 to take bold action to address the threats that confront humanity, including the destruction of the environment and climate change, extreme global poverty and deteriorating food security, nuclear arms, terrorism and violent conflict,” the religious leaders stated.The religious leaders’ meeting was hosted by Religions for Peace Japan and the World Conference of Religions for Peace. It is the third time religious leaders representing the world’s major religions have met immediately before a G8 summit. In 2006, religious leaders met in Moscow, and the following year in Cologne, Germany. “In meeting just before the G8 summit, religious leaders are clearly showing a commitment to work together to challenge global leaders in their responsibility to address critical issues of the day and to hold them accountable to promises they themselves have made in previous meeting,” said Rev. Setri Nyomi, the general secretary of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and a WCRP co-president. The 100 delegates from more than 20 countries said that money saved through cuts in military budgets should be used for an “Earth fund” to protect the environment and combat poverty. They also called for the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals, which among other things, aim to halve global poverty by 2015. German Bishop Wolfgang Huber, the head of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which hosted the meeting of faith leaders before the G8 meeting in 2007, said he was pleased with the results of the meeting in northern Japan.
“The representatives of different religions are together taking up responsibility for shaping a fair and inclusive future,” Bishop Huber said in a July 2 statement. “I hope that this commitment to the eradication of poverty and the preservation of creation will continue in view of the forthcoming G8 summits in Italy and Canada.”The G8 is an international forum for the governments of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.