This substantive volume edited by Paul F. Knitter, professor emeritus of theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Chandra Muzaffar, president of the International Movement for a Just World and professor at the Centre for Civilization Dialogue at Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, is a part of the Faith Meets Faith Series published by Orbis Books. Scholars from seven religious traditions African Igbo, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucianist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim have contributed essays on furthering the cause of economic justice. One of the major roadblocks in the way of this noble goal is the widespread worship of greed, especially in Western nations. The great religious poet Rabindranath Tagore once wrote: "Avarice is an evil passion, and for that reason it cannot create. Man's spiritual nexus is weakened when avarice becomes the motive power of a civilization. The greater the material wealth, strength and prosperity conferred by such a civilization, the less potent is the spiritual power of man."
As Paul F. Knitter acknowledges in the introduction, the world's religions may not be united on various ideas and principles but they all share an interest in helping the poor and the powerless who are suffering as a result of economic despair. Globalization has led to an ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor. The United Nations Human Development Report (1998) reveals that 20 percent of people in high income countries account for 86 percent of private consumption while the poorest 20 percent of the world's population consume only 1.3 percent of the pie. In Africa, the average household consumes 20 percent less than it did 25 years ago. Furthermore, two-thirds of the world's population live on less than $2 per day.
All religions emphasize the importance of sharing, caring, and giving. The essayists in this volume hold up some other values as well: Ifi Amadiume writes about African religious perspectives on conscience; Swami Agnivesh discusses sociospiritual activism from a Hindu point of view; David R. Loy offers a Buddhist take on greed and globalization; Zhou Qin presents a Confucian view of the global economy; Norman Solomon examines Judaism and economic reform; Sallie McFague explores Christianity, economics and planetary living, and Ameer Ali ponders the contributions of Islam to the project of overcoming the shortcomings of global capitalism. There is much food for thought in this paperback.