Categories
International Relations Religion

A Seasonal Reading List

Candle light, photo: Alesa Dam/flickr
Candle light, photo: Alesa Dam/flickr

In light of our weekly theme – religion and international affairs – we thought we’d link to an excellent reading list compiled by Foreign Affairs on this very timely and often ignored topic.

Whether seen as a civilizational clash; a clash between modernity and traditionalism; secularism and religion, the nature of conflict in the international realm makes it clear that powerful forces are at play and tend to evolve, more than ever, around religious identities and clashing interpretations thereof.

As Foreign Affairs notes, the relevance and effectiveness of US and indeed western foreign policy depends on acknowledging the place religion occupies in global politics and engaging in candid conversations that include both secular and religious voices.

Instead of allowing religiously couched fear-mongering to take root in our minds and in our policy, and effectively allowing Huntington’s ‘clash’ to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, we need to engage openly with religion in the political realm, while keeping in mind that religious rhetoric often masks deep socio-political malaise and distinctly non-spiritual problems.

Categories
Religion

ISN Weekly Theme: Religion Resurrected?

Photo: James Quinn/flickr
Photo: James Quinn/flickr

From DC to Tel Aviv to Riyhad and all points in between, religion is increasingly taking center stage in the political world…or is it?

As the holiday season approaches, this question is our weekly theme.

Dr Jonathan Fox of Bar Ilan University asks in this week’s Special Report whether there is a resurgence of religion on the world scene or whether religion was always present but ignored. Dr Lisa Watanabe of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy complements this article commenting on the interplay between security and religion at the state level, with a specific focus on Islam and IR.

  • Over in the Links Library, we’re highlighting Think Again: God. In the article, Karen Armstrong reviews aspects of religions such as its relation to politics, democracy and violence, its effect on women and its compatibility with science.
  • The Abraham Fund Initiatives foments dialogue between Israel’s Jews and Arabs. Find out more in the IR Directory.
  • Also in the Directory, the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that focuses on a revival of Western Islam.

And feel free to browse all of our religion-religion related content by keyword.

Categories
International Relations Culture Religion

Interreligious Dialogue: A Way Toward Peace?

Religijne_symbole0
Religious Symbol, Wikicommons

On Thursday 3rd of December, the Parliament of the World’s Religions opened the doors of its 5th parliamentary session in Melbourne, Australia. The first session took place on 1893 at the World Exposition of Chicago.  The parliament waited 100 years to host its second parliamentary session and since 1993, the inter-religious body has met every 5 years.

At its first meeting, the assembly wanted to promote a better understanding of different cultures and already called for peaceful relations between all religions. They also called for a common understanding of faith, exemplified by Indian Hindu delegate Swami Vivekananda’s call: “if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will hold no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach; whose Son shines upon the followers of Krishna or Christ, saints or sinners, alike; which will not be the Brahman or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammedan [Muslim], but the sum total of all these”.

After 100 years of inactivity, the assembly has started to play a proactive role in what is called para- or indirect diplomacy; ensuring that different religions and populations exchange views and opinions on global affairs with a religious perspective; the final goal being peace.  For example, in 1999 the assembly focused on HIV/AIDS. This year, the parliament will focus on the rights of indigenous people and on climate change.

Categories
Government Culture Elections Religion

Switzerland: Quo Vadis?

Minaret in Serrières, Switzerland
Minaret in Serrières, Switzerland

It was the first Sunday of Advent and a black day for everyone who cherishes the values of enlightenment. It was unexpected since everyone seemed to be against it: almost all political parties, the national churches, representatives of the economy and many other organizations.

But it happened still: The Swiss banned the construction of minarets in yesterday’s vote.

Reactions after the result were impressive. Within minutes I received text messages and Facebook group invitations from all sorts of people. One of the groups is “I am ashamed of the results of the Anti-Minaret initiative!.” When I wanted to invite more friends to join I realized that they were all already there – from the most conservative to the most liberal people I know.

Categories
International Relations Religion

Charter for Compassion: Should We Really Need This?

An announcement landed in my inbox last night about the unveiling of a project called the “Charter for Compassion.” The brainchild of author and former nun Karen Armstrong, the Charter is a call to action for folks to behave with, well, compassion toward one another.

“We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.”

After signing the Charter, participants are prompted to detail their acts of compassion on the site.

The Charter and the video (see above) are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. They both show what can happen when people from all walks of life join together for a common, wonderful cause.

But here’s the question I posed a few minutes ago to a colleague about the project: “Have we fallen so far that we have to go to a website to remind us to be human?”

“This is a ritual…people need rituals,” he replied. “Rituals help you remind yourself of your duties.”

Darned good point.

But still, do projects such as the Charter change or tweak how people behave toward one another? Or, do they preach to the choir? Can we expect to see Than Shwe’s name (verified, please) on the list of affirmers?

One can hope.

One can also hope that the time will come when the site returns a “404 not found” page because it wasn’t needed anymore…we’d learned how to treat each other with compassion without having to be reminded to do so.