Church leaders of 12 major Christian denominations have signed a statement calling for Australia to adopt an inclusive and accountable approach to foreign policy which promotes peace and human security, the preservation of "sustainable and flourishing ecologies" and reflects God's priorities for the "poor and most vulnerable".

The statement, which has been signed by leaders from churches including the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Salvation Army and Uniting denominations, is among more than 9,000 submissions made as the Australian Government's prepares the country's first Foreign Policy White Paper since 2003. The submission was coordinated by Micah Australia and the Campaign for Australian Aid.

In the statement, the church leaders say the starting point for their approach is "fundamental conviction that every human being is created in the image of God, bearing inherent worth and dignity".

"We recall, also, that Jesus asked us to 'love our neighbours as ourselves'. While this is a call to the church it was also, in the Hebrew Scriptures, a commandment to a nation. Jesus’ words remind us that a concern for the needs and rights of others must not be an afterthought nor the accidental by- product of a unilateral pursuit of self-interest. Rather, that we must apply the same concern for the rights and interests of others that we apply to our own."

The statement also highlights "God’s priority for the poorest and most vulnerable people". "We believe that God calls all people to deliberate, judge, govern and trade with special care to protect the rights of those living in poverty in any community. In international, as well as domestic, affairs, we believe that governments are mandated to 'give justice to the poor' and to 'uphold the rights of the oppressed'."

In light of this, the church leaders say the purpose of Australia's foreign policy "should be to achieve the sustainable flourishing and well-being of all Australians and of our global neighbours", that its values "should be aligned with those that undergird Australia’s national character and institutions and which represent our best selves", and that its processes should "prioritise multilateral forums and bilateral engagements which promote peace and democratic deliberation and which serve to address common challenges which threaten the security and well-being of all people".

The statement added that the priorities of the nation's foreign policy "should be to address regional and global challenges such as the scourge of poverty, economic exclusion and rising inequality, grave breaches of people’s human and civic rights, and the vulnerability of our nation and our neighbours to natural disasters and the increasing impact of climate change".

"In short, Australia’s foreign policy should promote the development of inclusive economies, the strengthening of accountable and responsive institutions, the promotion of peace and human security, as well as the preservation of sustainable and flourishing ecologies," the statement says.

Among church leaders whose signatories are on the document are Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins, president of the National Council of Churches in Australia, Roman Catholic Bishop Greg O'Kelly, of the diocese of Port Pirie, Pastor Stuart McMillan, president of the Uniting Church of Australia, Commissioner Floyd Tidd, national commissioner of the Salvation Army, and Bishop John Henderson of the Lutheran Church. Other denominations represented include the Seventh Day Adventists, Baptist, Australian Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, Apostolic Church, Chinese Methodist Church and Congregational churches.