At our last Congress in Oslo we took up the theme of Social Globalisation. We asked how the process of globalisation could be more than a question of global markets, to become a social process as well, characterised by sustainable development, social responsibility, the defence of the welfare state, more democratization, gender equality and globally responsible government.
Seeing the global financial crisis as an opportunity
Neoliberal thinking has written off our perspectives on the question of globalisation as irrelevant. The extensive cycle of economic world growth, although deeply unequal, seemed to give validity to their world view. However, we now find ourselves in the midst of economic global crisis of a magnitude we have not seen since before the Second World War. A pervasive absence of ethics in the financial markets can now be observed at the centre of the crisis, as well as the absence of any degree of regulation in those markets. To avoid a major economic collapse, the intervention of the state has been deemed necessary even by those same advocates of neoliberalism, in the financial institutions as well as in other productive sectors. And as always, the working class, the disadvantaged and the poor countries are always the biggest victims of the crisis.
We need to recover our sense of ethics. We urgently need political action that can help to regulate the global economy and direct it towards the service of the people. We need a new model of economic, sustainable and egalitarian development on a global scale. This current crisis, in spite of all its negative impact, can be an opportunity to truly extend economic globalisation to the social realm, considering all the aspects of modern human needs.
Globalisation and Religion
On the back of globalisation has come a revival of religion in public life. Religion, being an aspect of cultural identity, has a decisive role in the formation of a new social and economic framework. But what that role will be is a crucial question for all of us; it can be driven by fundamentalism, intolerance and violence, or on the other hand it can play a healing role in the global dialogue, by promoting tolerance, coexistence and cooperation.
The United Nations has incorporated into its work the proposed Alliance of Civilizations, promoted by the governments of Spain and Turkey. Its goal is to encourage meeting and dialogue between diverse cultural and religious traditions, particularly between the Islamic world and the West, in the hope of confronting the cultural and social roots of terrorism, as well as constructing better political relations based on cooperation and peace. Forum I of the Alliance of Civilizations took place in Madrid in 2008, and Forum II in Istanbul in 2009.
The ILRS welcomed this initiative in our 2006 Congress in Oslo, where we addressed our own long-standing projects on the need of intercultural and interfaith work on a global as well as local scale. In this Congress in Córdoba, we want to continue that work, and offer it as a contribution to the process of reflection, dialogue and action begun by the Group of Alliance of Civilizations. In the course of the Congress we will discuss the possibility of the ILRS entering officially into the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations.
Spirituality and the Global Crisis
This Congress takes place in a deeply symbolic place. Córdoba in the 12th century was a meeting point between the Abrahamic religions, where Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexisted in a cordial and fruitful way. In this place we want to consider the role of the spirituality in relation to the economic global crisis and also to politics in general.
We believe that religious experience is not alien either to the economy or to its social effects. This crisis has an origin and a spiritual dimension, in the excessive emulation of greed and materialism. In the process a culture impregnated with egoistic and materialistic values has been imposed as the cultural model. On the other hand this model has brought about unemployment and poverty for the global working class and poor, in what constitutes a flagrant ethical injustice against humanity.
Without a doubt, action is required to solve these problems. But no solutions will be sustainable if they are not legitimized by the people and their values as a frame of reference. In this situation our respective religious traditions represent an necessary source of ethics. In contrast to the abyss of inequality, the world's faiths claim the common dignity and equality of the whole human race. Against a materialistic consumerism, they affirm the priority of people over things, as well as the universal destiny of all creation. The centrality of solidarity with the poor and weak in the teachings of the world's faiths is an essential value at a time when social protection must be emphasized and guaranteed.
Far from focusing on our divisions, and defending confessional identities, the world's faiths can and must direct the dialogue and collaboration in and between their altars towards a new global economic order.
Building Alliances Between Faith and Justice
Religious traditions provide a powerful source of mobilisation and commitment to social justice in the pursuit of a socially responsible and sustainable economy. Religious teachings offer a foundation of equality and common human dignity, as well as hope of justice for the victims of past inequalities. The prophetic tradition provides an important critique of the existing order as well as a vision of building a new society.
In relation to this it is useful to mention the meeting of religious Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders held in Brussels this past May, where they called on the President of the European Commission and on the European Parliament to 'underline their commitment to help to restore the sense of solidarity between Europeans of all faiths and convictions, and to inspire a major ethical shift in the behaviour of financial and economic operators'.
Religious actors, in dialogue with other sectors of working people and citizens, are contributing through their analysis, their speech and their action, practical proposals for a more ethical, human and united economy. The role of the ILRS in this effort is to link the efforts of people of faith with political actors in our parties, while considering that often times these people are one and the same.