Around twenty senior representatives from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim
religions as well as from the Sikh and Hindu communities met in Brussels today
to discuss effective ways of combating poverty and social exclusion as an
imperative for European governance. This was the sixth in a series of annual
meetings launched by President Barroso in 2005.
The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford, Shaykh Ibrahim
Mogra, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, and Dayan
Yonoson Abraham, Judge of the Rabbinical court of the Chief Rabbinate of the
United Synagogue of the UK and the Commonwealth were amongst those invited to
participate by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
José Manuel Barroso, the Commission President said: "In Europe, several
million citizens live at the edge of social exclusion. A poor testimony for one
of the richest regions of the world! As Europe recovers from this crisis, I
want to see a generation of growth which integrates the most vulnerable into
main stream society."
He added: "Churches and religious communities are important providers of
social services in EU member states. If we want to combat poverty effectively,
it is essential to draw from their long standing and wide raging
The discussions took place in a frank and open spirit. The faith leaders
from fourteen Members States (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Italy,
the Netherlands, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland,
and Denmark) expressed their support for the Europe2020 strategy and its
social and education targets. They encouraged the European institutions to
further increase the momentum, especially with a view to improving access to
the labour market, better targeting of social services in member states and
ensuring equal opportunities with view to access to education and training.
The religious leaders also underlined their continued commitment to foster
social cohesion and increase a sense of solidarity and civic engagement among
Europeans. They emphasised that overcoming the current crisis will only be
possible when people and social justice are at the heart of European
The meeting was also co-chaired by Jerzy Buzek, President of the European
Parliament and Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council.