2021 G20 Interfaith Forum Italy – Messages to G20 Leaders

7th G20 Interfaith Forum

The priority of the G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) at this historic moment is healing: to heal health, social, and economic fractures stemming from the COVID-19 emergencies, and to heal the conflicts and inequities that contribute to these fractures and are accentuated by them. Religious groups and interreligious communities engage the agendas addressed by G20 leaders, in ways that offer distinctive, global perspectives. These can contribute to such healing. In this spirit, the IF20 advances specific proposals that will focus support to the most vulnerable, who risk being left behind especially in this uncertain time.

Each year the IF20 draws on a global network of interreligious groups to address all aspects of the G20 agenda. A number of policy briefs are under review for discussion with a G20 focus, and will be central topics at the IF20 Forum in Bologna, from September 12-14. Key proposals from these briefs are summarized here; the Annex below covers work-to-date more fully. Dialogue in virtual webinars will continue in the months ahead, as will plans to engage the 2022 G20 hosted by Indonesia.

Priorities, Actions

The COVID-19 emergencies are the priority now. G20 leaders and nations need to engage religious communities to: (a) support vaccination campaigns that reach communities worldwide by end 2021; (b) identify especially vulnerable communities and ensure a sharp focus on them; (c) convey positive messages; and (d) address vaccine hesitancy. Religious representatives need to be engaged in planning at all levels for COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness. G20 nations should include religious communities in aid plans, enhance partnerships, and collaborate to heal tensions around public health restrictions and fractures in social cohesion linked to the global crisis.

Inequalities within and among nations are deepened by the COVID-19 emergencies. Extreme poverty has increased and momentum has been lost on global humanitarian and development initiatives. Commendable G20 steps to relieve COVID-19 related financial pressures on governments and communities need to continue and expand. Faith-inspired actors can bring valuable insights on effects, gaps, and priorities, as well as advocating for and providing support to groups in urgent need, including refugees, Internally Displaced Populations, and specific vulnerable communities, among them various religious communities. As focus shifts to recovery, economic and financial reform efforts will benefit from engagement with religiously affiliated networks (Religions for Peace, the Vatican COVID Commission, and Jubilee USA, among them) that can help enhance accountability mechanisms, ensure integrity in use of financial resources, and advance anti-corruption work.

Massive disruption of formal education by the COVID-19 emergencies demands urgent measures that go beyond a “return to normal” and make healing and well-being a cornerstone of education. Opportunities exist to address growing educational disparities among communities, and gaps in civic education that weaken society and accentuate polarization. The IF20 calls for active dialogue about the needs of youth and children, drawing on actionable proposals for inclusive planning in education, to include trauma-informed, healing-sensitive approaches that draw on faith-inspired and indigenous traditions. Inclusive approaches are needed for reforms that address the large gaps in communities’ health-care access revealed by the pandemic.


2021 G20 Program, Italy

Peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts have suffered during the pandemic. Notwithstanding calls for global ceasefires during the COVID-19 emergencies, most ongoing conflicts persist and new forms of conflict have emerged, compounding the devastation of the pandemic. This underscores the need to better understand roles of religious engagement in diplomacy and peacebuilding, which often continues when governmental and international organizations’ work is disrupted. The IF20 Working Group on Religion and Peacebuilding calls for a permanent secretariat to study the intersections of religion, conflict, and sustainable development. Collaboration with religious groups that addresses conflict, hate speech, and the dangers of extremism, and advances conflict resolution at local and transnational levels is needed today more than ever.

The interconnected impact of racism and racial prejudice is a dominant, global concern. It is an issue the G20 should take on as a central and continuing focus, and in a manner that involves religious communities centrally. Healing, reconciliation, and equity are unachievable without attending to the underlying impact of racism in its diverse forms. In order to establish a solid analytic foundation for continuing action, the IF20 thus recommends that the G20 establish an International Commission on Racism that would (a) give central prominence to an underlying issue that in differing forms affects both nations and international relations, and to task the G20 leaders with responsibility for action; (b) assemble a tightly organized, multidisciplinary group of prominent states-people, scholars, and experts to draw on collective wisdom and positive action paths; and (c) set out in a widely promulgated document specific principles and proposals that will spur appropriate and urgent action.

The G20 2021 agenda includes high aspirations for action on climate change and threats to the environment. The Papal encyclical Laudato Si! highlights the multiple dimensions of religious concern, advocacy, and action, and includes strategies, as well as pragmatic proposals, such as science-based action accountability measures. As climate action and finance measures are debated during and around the G20 Summit and COP26 in Glasgow, exemplary religious involvement including the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) and Faith for Earth offer promise for action and widening constituencies whose support will be vital.

IF20 proposals to G20 leaders in 2020 and 2021 include the recommendation that the G20 Interfaith Forum be acknowledged as a formal engagement group of the G20. Active and distinctive inputs of religious communities during the COVID-19 emergencies highlight the value of religious inputs. The IF20’s far-reaching processes of analysis and dialogue, engaging a global reach of networks and communities focused on the G20 agenda, validate this proposal.


G20 Interfaith Forum 2021


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