CHURCH AND FINANCES
Lately, it is talked more and more of Islamic banking and Islamic insurance, penetrating Europe. Little is known, however, of the initiatives of Christian churches for regulating the financial situation of religious Christian organizations in the age of global secularism.
In January 2005 financial world was blown up by the great success of the Investment Fund to the Anglican Church in Great Britain, which realized huge incomes. It is an example of profitable, sound, risk-free and at the same time covering matters of ethnic nature investments, made in companies, which observe all normative acts on environmental protection, guarantee for non-discrimination of any kind and provide safe working and living conditions.
Another very successful fund is The Century Fund, established in 1994 by World Student Christian Federation, which is an ecumenical organization, existing since 1895. It works in beneficial partnership with the Churches and student and youth movements all over the world. Having started with the amount of 1 million US dollars, the Fund combines Christian ethics and investment in different spheres of activity with the purpose of raising resources for a Christian association among Christian students. The interests and earnings, received by the fund, are used for international programmes, international and regional cooperation as well as for supporting the Programme for Ecumenical Assistance through humanitarian initiatives for churches in developing and non-developing countries: higher education, settlement of conflicts and peace-making, theology and spirituality and other spheres of present interest. More than one hundred national movements are members of the Federation as they both make a profit of and give their contribution to the prosperity and activity of the World Student Christian Federation. This Investment Ecumenical Fund is a real opportunity for investing in the future and is established as a legal entity in Geneva.
On its part, in the period from 10th to 16th of April 2005 the World Council of Churches in Geneva initiated the organization of World Week of Initiatives on matters of commerce, as it encouraged all member-churches (347 in number from more than 120 countries) and other organizations from the non-governmental sector to participate in it.
In Geneva the delegation of “To Respond Together” Ecumenical Alliance, led by Pastor Samuel Cobia, Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches ат тхат тиме handed the Petition to the leaders of the World Trade Organization. The Petition is entitled “Trade at the Service of People” and has been signed by more than 180 religious leaders. Business circles are called to change the rules of international trade with the purpose of protecting the rights of all countries, including the rights of Man, the Creation /of Nature/ and economic equity.
During the last three decades microcredits revolutionized the financial world. Microfinancial institutions knocked down the financial rules, which seemed unshakeable, with the purpose of offering their services to the poor by granting credits with minimum interests and at the same time minimizing the formalities and bureaucracy. They proved that banks could grant loans not only to the rich, but also to small entrepreneurs from marginalized groups and their families. The United Nations Organization declared the year of 2005 for World Year of Microcredit. An Ecumenical Interchristian Organization called Oikocredit holds paramount position in the sector of microfinancing. It also played an active part in the international symposium, held on 10th of June, this year, in the former German Parliament in Bonn under the motto of “The small loans that change our life.” Since its establishment up to the present moment Oikocredit has supported 234 financial intermediary groups and many projects in Latin America, Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria), as unlike the other financial institutions, which grant credits for short terms (for a period of one to two years), Oikocredit offers crediting on a long-term plan (for a period of two to ten years) and is also one of the few institutions, which could afford to grant credits in local currencies.
Most of the private investment funds, engaged in microfinancing are qualified as “social investment funds”. Only few of them like SIDI in France, Calvert in the United States of America and Oikocredit are called “social funds.” The fact that the word “investment” was left out reveals that with these funds the social aspect is much more important than the financial yield.
To millions of people around the world, microredits changed the concept of charity. Even at a catastrophe with the magnitude of the disasters, caused by the tsunami or floods in Louisiana, microcredit has its place and specific significance since after the priority of the aid of vital necessity, a long-term restructuring aid is offered, which represents the very power of microfinancing.