Europe and Africa Section Chief Yoshihiko Shirokihara represented Tenrikyo at an interfaith meeting in Italy on June 16 and 17. The “Fourth Summit of Religious Leaders on the occasion of the G8,” as the event was officially called, was held ahead of the July 8―10 Group of Eight summit in order to address global issues on the G8 agenda from a religious and spiritual perspective and submit their proposals to the political leaders involved. The pre-G8 interfaith meeting has been an annual event since 2006, when the Moscow summit took place.
Sponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference and supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the meeting in Italy drew 130 representatives of many faiths from 23 countries. Rev. Shirokihara attended on behalf of Director-in-Chief of Administrative Affairs Masahiko Iburi, who was one of the 90 or so religious leaders who had been officially invited. Besides Rev. Shirokihara, participants from Japan included those who represented Buddhist and Shinto groups.
Closely reflecting the G8 agenda, the issues discussed at the meeting included the economic divide being aggravated by the global economic crisis, the environmental problems, and poverty in Africa.
On day one, delegates visited L’Aquila, the central Italian town ravaged by the April 6 earthquake, to pay tribute to the victims. Later, they had a meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at his official residence in Rome, the Quirinal Palace, before attending an opening ceremony and a reception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The following day, the plenary session took place at the Foreign Ministry’s international conference center, where Rev. Shirokihara, among other representatives, delivered a speech. “Tenrikyo teaches that whatever is happening in society is a reflection of our states of mind,” he said. “We are thus encouraged to consider various problems we face in society as urging us to reflect critically on our own states of mind.” He then said that unbounded greed played a role in causing the current economic crisis, global warming, and other global problems.
With regard to the widening divide between the rich and the poor in the world, Rev. Shirokihara spoke about the need to set up a global network that can contribute to humanitarian efforts to help the underprivileged. He also said, “As for those of us who are pursuing a religious or spiritual path, let us work together to accomplish the ‘salvation of mind’ no matter how long it may take, given that this salvation cannot be achieved through material assistance.”
The participants then worked together to produce a statement setting out their proposals based on the discussions at the plenary session.