The dignity of work and workers is a common value among the faith traditions. It is also now the focus of a policy handbook titled Convergences: Decent Work and Social Justice in Religious Traditions, a collaborative effort of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

In the handbook, the WCC and ILO encourage policy-makers to work with faith communities for social protection and security for all, especially in the area of labour. Other partners in the project include the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The publication explores the concepts of solidarity and security expressed in the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda (DWA), acknowledging the specific contributions and commitments of religious traditions for social justice, dignity in work and economic rights.

“When Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, and I met in 2010, we both felt that our organizations should engage in a common journey based on the conviction and knowledge that peace, social justice and the world of work were intertwined,” says Juan Somavia, the ILO’s director general, in the book’s foreword.

“This handbook is the very outcome of that encounter,” he added.

The handbook explains the commitments of various religious traditions, including Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism, showing that spiritual values are essential in the quest for a fair globalization and wherever the subject of work is considered.

Inspired by the common religious concern for social justice, Somavia writes, “Human dignity, solidarity and above all the connection between work, social justice and peace put us on common ground.”

“This handbook is a first step. I see much scope for future collaboration to expedite the dawn of a new era of social justice drawing on our shared values,” states Somavia.

Tveit agrees, saying, “As Christians, we believe that work is given to us as a way to steward our talents and time for the common good. In a time when so many do not have work, we need to re-emphasize how work also contributes to justice and peace.” 

Encouraging churches to articulate the value of fairness regarding labor conditions and the market has been part of the WCC’s Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth (AGAPE) process, and was addressed in 2006 during the WCC 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The handbook also sheds light on the longstanding WCC engagement with the ILO in inter-religious dialogue initiatives. Both have touted the potential of dialogue in bringing diverse faith traditions together to work for common concerns for decent work and social justice.

The handbook is available in English, Arabic, French and Spanish.