10th World Assembly
Key Topics of the 10th World Assembly
Today the world is in a catastrophic state: Between 2007 and 2016, there was a 408 percent increase in war dead, an 247 percent increase in people killed by terrorism and a doubling of the number of refugees. [Global Peace Index 2017] Conflicts continue to rage in many places such as the Ukraine, Syria, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, in the Holy Land, Myanmar, on the Korean Peninsula as well as between Sunni and Shiite groups. 70 percent of the world population perceives their religious freedom to be severely restricted [Freedom House 2018], more than 10 percent of the global population has less than 1.90 US Dollars per day [World Bank 2017] and virtually all states are lagging behind their commitments to the Paris Agreement. [http://climateactiontracker.org]
Today’s challenges of conflict and extremism, violations of human rights, poverty and environmental threats, go hand in hand with a crisis of confidence in political and economic institutions. Even the concept of “trust” is being challenged and communication is increasingly manipulated and distorted for commercial or political reasons.
The following key issues were dealt with at the 10th World Assembly.
THE POTENTIAL: EFFECTIVE ACTION
Against this background, shared values are not the only reason why world religions unite to work together. Rather, their positive visions of peace and range of potential resources, including their enormous number of believers and followers, their spirituality, their ethical heritage and their extensive infrastructures, make them far more qualified than most other actors to effectively advocate for peace and the common good. Thus, interfaith action lies at the heart of the World Assembly: Action to resolve violent conflicts, promote inclusion and solidarity, support sustainable development and protect the environment. Interfaith action forms the basis for the Assembly and is its most important outcome at the same time.
Another achievement of the 10th World Assembly will be to bring together and enter into dialog with actors in Lindau across dividing lines: This entails listening to one another and trying to understand others, even if you do not share their position. „We agree to disagree“, in other words „We agree that we have different opinions“, is a message and a cultural achievement in itself. In light of political, economic, cultural and developmental conflicts, the objective of the World Assembly of Religions for Peace is to support religious communities in fulfilling their responsibility. This dialog acts as a kind of “soft power”, which is based on the shared sense of responsibility, the joint development of trust, credibility and coordinated commitment.
The outstanding strength of Religions for Peace is that the organization adopts a “top-down” approach. Both the local communities and religious leaders are championing the creation of peace across boundaries. Initiatives are being launched in order to establish coalitions that can address specific problems on the ground. By harnessing new and social media, they also act as catalysts, particularly in multi-confessional contexts.
TOGETHER AGAINST RADICALIZATION AND ESCALATION
The transformation of perceived life-worlds leads to fears and erodes social ties. The potential of inter-confessional dialog lies in its fundamental affinity with virtually all religious orientations. They work by transcending the present and imparting meaning. They provide stability in our changing world: Stability in faith and stability in the religious community. In our digital age, this stability, the necessity for imparting meaning and community building, is increasingly important but also more challenging too.
This function of imparting meaning and building a community is both inclusive and exclusive. In awareness of this, the Lindau dialog symbolizes an invitation for understanding beyond borders and differences. Speaking to one another means recognizing and respecting how other people are different from ourselves. It is an “antidote” against radicalization and escalation. By entering into this dialog, the world religions are proving their sense of responsibility both internally and externally.
CLIMATE CHANGE: AN EXISTENTIAL MATTER
Furthermore, the World Assembly invites its participants to reflect upon how our attitudes towards economic systems, political institutions and societies are to be assessed – and ultimately be improved – based on the question of what contribution they make to shared well-being and in the service of humanity, and to what extent they duly value and protect the environment above all. “Shared well-being” essentially lends expression to a “positive” understanding of peace, a recognition that peace is more than a mere absence of war and conflicts. A view voiced by each and every religious tradition in their own way.
Care for creation means giving meaning to the existence of each individual in its environment. A global discourse on sustainability must not only be pursued by elites, it also needs to include those at the local level. Initiatives emanating from inter-confessional dialog on sustainability make it possible to activate the meaningful and community-forming functions of religions. The focus on transcendence lends religions strength when it comes to dealing with worldly matters. They thus set a counterpoint to the dominance of the present. Climate change illustrates how humanity’s basis of existence is at stake, and hence sustainable thinking and acting are called for. In this context, the World Assembly of RfP makes itself, but also the world, aware of this and calls for new ways of assuming responsibility.
RELIGIONS AS “TRUSTEES OF KNOWLEDGE” AGAINST “FAKE NEWS”
Imparting meaning and community building in times of “fake news” is more important than ever. Even though we may interpret facts differently, part of the responsibility of religions is to perform a trustee function for «knowledge about the world» and represent facts to the best of their knowledge and belief. That not only acts as protection against demagogy, as a “remedy” against an instrumentalisation of faith, but also contributes to a healthy social discourse, which can override ethnic, religious or ideological differences and establish “common sense”. This supports social coexistence. As a World Assembly, RfP highlights the necessity of understanding the task to not be the national well-being, but rather the shared well-being of the entire world. In this respect, religions boldly introduce their spiritual strength and ability, their trust and confidence.