By Mark G. Toulouse, principal, professor of history of Christianity, Emmanuel College of Victoria College; professor in the Study of Religion department, University of Toronto
Between September 29 and October 5, 2012, a selection of religious leaders, politicians, activists, and economists met in São Paulo, Brazil to propose measures that could lead to a financial and economic architecture more reflective of economic, social, and ecological justice. The conference, convened by the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the Council for World Mission, engaged a variety of diverse proposals in order to set criteria and develop a plan of action that could eventuate in the construction of more just and sustainable global financial and economic structures.
The conference began with delegates making immersion visits in São Paulo that exposed plights experienced by the homeless, single mothers, widows, orphans, and addicts, representing just some of those who have been left disenfranchised within the current economic system. The delegates to the conference debated, in a variety of ways, whether steps toward justice could be achieved through a reform of free market capitalism or whether a radical transformation of the entire system would be required. Delegates called for “an active radicalising of our theological discourse that will no longer allow too much power being placed into capitalist ideologies that have resulted in an inability to think beyond existing financial and economic structures.”
Those attending the conference issued “The São Paulo Statement: International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life,” a twelve-page document containing a variety of practical recommendations, including a number of regulatory measures, a call for implementing a global transaction tax, progressive taxation of both capital gains and the incomes for highest earners, and measures to insure gender-just fiscal stimuli and access to basic financial services for the poor and marginalized.