July 21, 2010.
Around 20 senior figures from Christian, Jewish, Muslim religions as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities met in Brussels to discuss effective measures to combat poverty and social exclusion.
The European Commission hosted this annual summit of religious leaders with European institutions. The Commission's president, JosÚ Manuel Barroso, said churches and religious communities are important providers of social services, and it is essential to draw from their wide ranging experience.
JosÚ Manuel Barroso
President, European Commission
“The fight against poverty cannot only be the fight for employment. Employment is critically important and is the best tool to fight poverty, but we need to go beyond that. The current situation in many areas of Europe is dramatic and unacceptable.”
Currently 80 million Europeans live in poverty.
One of the European Union-wide objectives is to reduce that number by 20 million by 2020.
Other targets include reducing school drop-out rates to less than 10 percent and increasing the share of 30-34 years old having completed college to at least 40 percent.
Leaders expressed their support for the Europe 2020 strategy and discussed improving access to the labor market, better targeting of social services and ensuring equal access to education and training.
They emphasized overcoming the current economic crisis will only be possible when people and social justice are at the heart of European policies.
Herman van Rompuy
President, European Council
“The heart of each religion is love. That is why initiatives coming from civil society, also from religious organizations are so important. But loving really the poor is doing everything possible so that they are not poor anymore at the end.”
Flaminia Giovanelli, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was the main Vatican leader at the meeting. She said the difference between rich and poor is “increasingly great and scandalous” and that the Catholic Church is on the side of the poor.