Pax Christi International attends Vatican conference, ‘Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals: Listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor’


18/3/19 - The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, together with the Pontificial Council for Inter-religious dialogue, convened a conference on “Religions and the SDGs” in the Vatican from 7 until 9 of March in which Pax Christi International participated. The conference aimed to create a deeper understanding of the SDGs among faith leaders and to discuss the contribution that religions can make to their implementation.

The conference begun with speeches from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the Secretary and Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva expressing the importance of the conference. Afterwards, the fulfillments of the SDGs regarding the 5 P’s of the 2030 Agenda (people, prosperity, planet, peace and justice, and partnership) were discussed through different panel sessions.

During the course of the three days, interesting discussions took place between representatives of a variety of religions and beliefs (Christianism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Jainism, Taoism and indigenous) as well as from academia, civil society, faith based organization and international organizations. Some important points that participants discussed on the role of religions and the SDGs were the following:

  • There is urgency with regard to the implementation of the SDGs and needed resources, we have a bit more than 10 years left to achieve them, so action needs to be accelerated especially for the most marginalized ensuring ‘that no one is left behind’.
  • In the process towards the adoption of the SDGs little attention was given to the role of religions, which is now changing in the implementation phase.
  • At the UN and other international organisations there is growing awareness of the role of religion, as they influence how people see the world and act.
  • The SDGs are central to all religions through the values of peace, justice, respect for the earth, co-existence and non-materialism.
  • Religions can contribute, promote and push for the implementation of the SDGs both in the North and the South. They have an important role as they have a massive reach, so support through the mobilization of their people is needed to meet the SDGs.
  • Religious institutions run a lot of schools around the world and can include sustainable development education in the curricula and train teachers.
  • It’s important that faith leaders understand the gravity of the situation as there is increasing degradation of the environment and social and economic inequality. If our generation doesn’t act, other generations cannot repair the damages anymore.
  • Faith leaders were challenged to think if they are contributing or going against sustainable development and there was an appeal for them to be responsible stewards.
  • Faith leaders and organizations should strongly commit to the SDGs and ‘walk the talk’ such as though transparency and their investments. The ZUG-guidelines for faith-consistent investing were mentioned as an important tool.
  • Decision making in churches and its leadership should be inclusive for both men and women in line with SDG 5 (as we celebrated international women’s day).
  • Interfaith and intercultural dialogue is fundamental for the implementation of the SDGs and partnerships a red threat. Also innovative platforms between religions and secular organizations and groups are also important in this regard.
  • Dialogs on the SDGs have to be a dialogue between generations. It’s important to support youth, learn from them and tap into the energy of young people and bring it in so that religions can harvest that energy.
  • Churches and faith actors can only do so much, as policies are in the hands of politicians, so it’s also important to address the SDGs at those levels as faith leaders and actors.
  • The German government for international cooperation wants to expand its cooperation with faith based organizations, which can be an example for other governments. Basic values as human rights have to be respected for cooperation.
  • The Vatican on his turn can become a hub for the SDGs in similarity with the ‘SDG cities’ and to be the first CO2 neutral state in the world.
  • Pope Francis addressed the participants of the international conference on Friday affirming the importance of the SDGs and calling for accelerating and adapting our actions in responding to both the cry of the earth and the poor. His full speech is available here.  In follow up of the workshop session of the conference, an outcome document with calls from participants will be finalized and released by the Vatican in the coming weeks.

For more on the conference, click on these links:

  • Listen to an interview with our advocacy officer on the conference with Radio Vaticano for its program for Africa in Portuguese through this link.
  • See also this link for our SDG guide developed for training with our Asia Pacific members and partners, including faith leaders, in 2017.
  • See photos from the conference here.
  • To see the complete programme agenda, click here.


Vatican, SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, conference