Religious participation in global policy planning gatherings is on the rise, although neither religious leaders nor policy makers have thought much about the long term role of religion in world affairs, writes Lawrence Sullivan in the e-newsletter Sightings (March 7).
The recent participation of religious leaders in the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland was a first. WEF organizer Klaus Schwab “has signaled a serious, civilized role for religious players in Davos . . . The WEF briefed all participants on religion’s relevance: in stabilizing and legitimizing political and economic systems; in reviving activism in the international system; in mobilizing against globalization’s deleterious effects; in building and consolidating peace; in providing critical and spiritual reflections from which emerge social, economic, and ecological values,” Sullivan writes.
The new recognition of the religion factor may be partly defensive. Such international agencies as the UN, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have faced steady criticism from religious institutions on issues of religious freedom, women’s issues, immigration, poverty, and the environment. Another event that may have encouraged the WEF was last summer’s Millennial Peace Summit, which brought religious leaders, and such personalities as Ted Turner, to the UN to deliberate on world peace and interfaith cooperation.
But Sullivan adds that this “UN moment has yet to be followed up with constructive working agendas that involve religious leadership.” The problem lies partly with the religious leaders. Sullivan concludes that “Few religious leaders study the issues or express themselves in ways that engage policy makers in business, finance, science, and government.”