01: The sweep and influence of the third Parliament of the World’s Religions, held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999, are featured in the current issue of World Faiths Encounter (March).
Included are editorial overviews, reports on the widespread cultural diversity of the participants, a look at the “next generation” of youth leaders’ contributions, the leadership of the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. The meeting attracted 7,000 delegates, sponsored over 800 seminars, lectures and presentations, promoted a wide diversity of expression in the arts, and focused on major socio-economic global issues on which members could take leadership roles.
For more information on this issue, write: World Faiths Encounter, 2 Market St., Oxford, OX1 3EF England
— By Erling Jorstad
02: The consumerist and pluralistic realities of American religion and how they relate to urban life is examined in the new book Public Religion And Urban Transformation (New York University Press, $18.50), edited by Lowell W. Livizey.
The book, the result of an in-depth study of the religious institutions and neighborhoods of Chicago, provides a rich source of data and case studies of how “religious restructuring” impacts cites and neighborhoods today. Contributors note how the rise in immigrant populations has changed the boundaries and relations between religious groups and their neighborhoods, particularly as congregations of all faiths seek to reach members scattered throughout a metropolitan region.
The growth in individualism has likewise severed the link between living in a neighborhood and belonging to a congregation. Even Catholic parishes that seek to draw members from within their distinct neighborhoods feel the disconnection. A chapter on Old St. Patrick’s Church in downtown Chicago by Elfriede Wedam shows how the parish has adapted to religious consumerism — drawing people from throughout the city to a diverse menu of programs. While the consumerist tendency weakens community bonds and the drive for social reform, the contributors find that these congregations create strong sources of moral direction and new forms of community life.
03: Religious Persecution as a U.S. Policy Issue, edited by Rosalind Hackett, Mark Silk and Dennis Hoover, provides a helpful overview and discussion of an issue receiving growing attention by both political and religious leaders.
Issued by the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, the 60-page book features 42 public policy specialists, journalists, activists, academics and religious leaders (who participated in a conference at the center) to weigh in on five main issues: the International Religious Freedom Act, issued by Congress in 1998; religious persecution in China and India; religious persecution in the Middle East and Sudan; religious repression in Europe; and the ramifications of religious persecution for U.S. foreign policy.
After each contribution, there is a free-ranging discussion section among the participants. One persistent concern and debating point throughout the book is that the International Religious Freedom Act and the religious freedom movement in general is overly American, too influenced by the Christian culture and the concept of separation of church and state, and that an international consensus is needed to check religious persecution.
Another noteworthy debate involves the extent of religious persecution in Europe, with sociologist Steven Kent arguing that some restrictions on authoritarian new religious movements may be necessary, and Belgian human rights activist Willy Fautre holding forth that European government’s monitoring of “cults” has restricted religious freedom.
For information on the book, write: Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College, 300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106, or visit the center’s web site: www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/.