The disconnects among different worlds come through powerfully at World Economic Forum (WEF) meetings. Bringing everyone together under one tent is a feat all by itself, but once they get there they can talk quite different languages.
The World Economic Forum on the Middle East at Sharm El Sheikh reeks of solemnity. There is a sense that the people who attend this annual business-driven meeting carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. With speeches by three heads of state (Presidents Hosni Mubarak and George W. Bush and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud) at the opening event Sunday, with 1,500 world leaders from many different sectors, the gravity of the issues at hand seemed overwhelming.
Seamus Finn OMI is a priest with the Catholic religious order, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He spends a good amount of his time on investment issues. He is a "socially responsible investing" (SRI) consultant and a leader in a new international effort to bring different religious traditions together in using their financial muscle for worthy causes. I asked him what is most on his mind these days: Wheat subsidies? Mining ventures? Gas prices? No, he said, outrage in his voice, it's the credit crisis. The current financial meltdown in the United States reflects failures to look at the ethical implications of basic lending practices right up and down the line. And millions of real people are hurting as a result.
The global food crisis came like a tsunami, with amazing speed and stealth. Development institutions everywhere are scrambling to face the urgent problems and questions that come in its wake.
There's the immediate problem: How to find funds to buy enough food to meet steep increases in demand to feed hungry people here and now.
Music is a well known path for crossing wide cultural divides. Music speaks without words. It can epitomize a mood as well as a culture. And it can stir up emotions and preconceptions. There's a fascinating venture afoot in Fes, Morocco, to use those very qualities to bridge divides between the Muslim world and western cultures and faiths. The idea is that people can, through their love of music, explore new realms and appreciate the world's wonderful diversity. But even more, the hope is that with emotions roused through music and art, people will open their minds as well as their hearts to new ideas.
For guts combined with grace, Thoraya Obaid has few rivals. A proud Saudi Muslim, she leads what is probably the United Nations' most controversial agency, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) â€“ which addresses women's reproductive health. Recently she was the speaker at the Washington National Cathedral's Sunday Forum, arguing that religious leaders must address the sorry state of women in much of the developing world.
The landmark "Breakthrough" summit at the National Cathedral had a clear goal; to bring together faith, development, and women's organizations in order to create a powerful new force for reducing poverty by improving the lives of women and girls around the world.
The event, held April 13-14, had two distinct parts. The first was a grand and moving show that drew in the crowd in both a spiritual and sensory way. In the morning a forum in the Cathedral nave featured Thoraya Obaid, who heads UNFPA and the sermon at the 11:15 service was preached by Agnes Aboum, who heads the All Africa Council of Churches. At 2pm the 2,000 person audience in the National Cathedral was treated to inspirational speeches with Madeleine Albright standing out: her comment "some people call domestic violence cultural; I call it criminal" was perhaps the most memorable of the day.
Sloshing through Hezekiah’s tunnel near the City of David in Jerusalem brings home what fear and faith can do. The 530-meter-long tunnel was chiseled out of rock over 2500 years ago, deep underground, by men without flashlights or scientific instruments to guide them. They knew that if they were attacked they could survive only if they were sure of their water source. To this day water flows through the tunnel from a spring to a reservoir.
This note, just for information, reports on an interesting meeting that form part both of an emerging dimension of the World Bank faith/ethics dialogue and a broader evolution of coalitions for change, especially in the US but also more broadly - that is, the growing interest of the vast community of faith institutions in climate change and their increasing activism.