At the 2015 Parliament, the Parliament's pursuit of justice focused on income inequality. The Income Inequality plenary and program track focused on the importance of a just economic order and the moral responsibility each and everyone of us has to make the world a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Income Inequality Programs Showcased Change

Dr. Karen Armstrong reminded the world that practicing compassion is supposed to be "uncomfortable." For this reason, compassion was the means test for many Parliament programs on the wealth gap, greed, and privilege, by and through which presenters stunned the Parliament with innovative solutions.

  • Salt Lake City's Pamela Atkinson shared how a community working in cooperation with business leaders, religious groups, nonprofit organizations, and government offices can approach homelessness compassionately and curb its prevalence by fifty percent.

  • On Food Waste and Consumption, interfaith activists from Philadelphia shared how religious cooperatives decided to end hunger in their city.

  • On a widely-attended panel, Rev. William Barber of Moral Mondays said white privilege and plantation capitalism are the roots of the movement for black lives.

The Declaration

The 2015 Parliament yielded a signature Declaration on Income Inequality and the Widening Wealth Gap,

As most traditions affirm, accumulating wealth does not bring happiness; rather, increasing inequality erodes the moral fabric of our societies. Religions also remind us to embrace lifestyles of simplicity, compassion, and generosity. They encourage us to engage in strategies of just distribution that uplift the common good and foster human flourishing. Expert studies of happiness and a growing international consensus on human development confirm this age-old wisdom.

Read and sign on to the Income Inequality Declaration here.

The Plenary

World-renowned speakers shared prophetically, many of them dusting off central-but-often-ignored tenets of religious texts. Their assertion was undeniable; that is, if heeded, spiritual teachings could radically reduce the widening wealth gap, greed, extreme poverty, and hunger endangering most of the earth's inhabitants. Comprehensive self-and community-wide examination would take place in exploring economic justice at the intersections of race, caste, and other socioeconomic constructs.

Attendees were charged to look introspectively at their own privileges, whether they stemmed from belonging to a region's majority religious group or a powerful protected caste, to being born with a particular color of skin. It was a night of contrasts as each person in the crowd identified their own advantages and became keenly aware that there always exists someone with less; a difficult truth that sits at the heart of inequality.

So the Parliament line-up of Income Inequality experts sought to present some common spiritual sense. 

Sojourners President and author, Rev. Jim Wallis, immediately leaned into one of the most confrontational questions of the night, asking, " What if White Christians were more Christian than White?"

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, addressed the plenary via video by sharing the "Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty," an initiative led by the World Bank Group after convening religious and spiritual leaders to develop a global statement and plan of action.

Pointing to the transformative influence of interfaith action on extreme poverty in the world and on the World Bank itself, he said,

Mobilizing for the poorest is a powerful way to pursue the Parliament's theme of reclaiming the heart of our humanity. Faith leaders have so often fueled social movements with reghteous results. You've turned seemingly impossible goals like ending Apartheid and Jim Crow segregation into inevitable outcomes...We've committed to working with you to do this once again. Together we can accomplish what I believe will be one of humanity's greatest achievements: Ending Extreme Poverty in a Generation."

 

Majors Speakers on Income Inequality