Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called on Monday for a financial system and a global economy that respects the human person.
Speaking on the first day of the 3rd European Microfinance Forum (3rd EMF) taking place in Rome, Cardinal Turkson quoted from Pope Francis’ encyclicals and messages that denounce the current culture of waste and speak of an anthropological crisis that has placed wealth at the summit of a scale of values. He also praised the tools provided by microfinance and microcredit which, he said, “not only have a positive economic impact, but also a social and cultural one.
The Forum aims to provide public institutions, private sector operators and non-profit organizations with an opportunity to debate and share views from their various perspectives on economic and social development and credit access.
In his speech Cardinal Turkson said that right from the beginning of his Pontificate, starting with his Encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has decried the fact that the current economic system is founded on exclusion and a throwaway culture that produces inequity: “that’s why he speaks of an economy that kills!”
Referring to the Pope’s Laudato Si‘ encyclical, Cardinal Turkson continued: “the Pope says: “Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”
And quoting from Pope Francis’ words again, this time upon receiving the Charlemagne Prize, Turkson said that the Pope clearly calls for the urgent need to come up with “new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole”. Doing this – he said – “calls for moving from a liquid economy in which numbers are more important than people to a social economy”.
“The Pope clearly indicates that it is unacceptable that “the death from cold of an old man living on the streets doesn’t make the news while the loss of 2 points on the stock exchange does”.
The cause of this, he said, is the anthropological crisis the world is going through; and it is much deeper than the economic one: “the denial of the primacy of the human person”. Money and wealth – he explained – are being worshipped as the new idol.
Cardinal Turkson also explained that the Pope does not limit himself to criticizing the current economic model, but outlines the characteristics of a more equal economy, that gives everyone the possibility to participate within respect for human dignity and care for the environment.
Indicating a social economy that “invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training,” Cardinal Turkson said, the Pope asks us to “move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labour.”
Highlighting the fact that we need a modern social market economy to be able to tackle the challenges of unemployment, increasing inequality and environmental degradation, the Cardinal stressed how the human person and his and her fundamental and inalienable human rights must be at the fulcrum of such a system.
Cardinal Turkson acknowledged that the crucial challenge a new model of social economy will be called to face is globalization, and especially that “globalization of indifference” that opposes a globalization of solidarity.
The Cardinal concluded his speech saying that the tools provided by microfinance and microcredit in tackling unemployment, inequality and environmental degradation are of “crucial importance”.
Microcredit, he said, places trust in those who are not considered “adequate” by banks to receive financial loans, “it places trust in the marginalized, in the excluded of our throwaway culture, in their capacity to get organized and bring about change for themselves, for their families, for their communities”.
And, he said, microfinance and microcredit do not only have an economic impact, but a social and cultural one as well.
Cardinal Turkson concluded his address quoting from Evangelii Gaudium: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”