The World Economic Forum's annual Europe regional meeting was held in Istanbul for two days earlier this week. It was (as appears to be traditional for WEF regional meetings) heavily focused on Turkey, the host country, though ostensibly it covered all Europe. I was there because the Core Group (now renamed Executive Committee) of the WEF's Council of 100 Leaders on West Islamic Dialogue met as part of the meeting. But I was also part of a panel on education challenges for Turkey, and then did a lengthy, live CNN Turkey interview (with the meeting's co-chair Guler Sabaci) on issues for education.
Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Azusa Church, considered the first formally established Pentecostal Church, this conference brought together a fascinating blend of scholars and "practitioners", in this instance preachers and activists in the Pentecostal arena. Among luminaries at the meeting were Rev. Harold Caballeros (Guatemalan preacher and candidate for President), Peter Berger, David Martin, Luis Lugo, Eugene Rivers, and Jack Miles.
Today marked the formal launch of the Tripartite Interfaith Forum, and involved inspirational speeches and wise comments from global and UN leaders and the wide range of participants, from member states, from United Nations agencies, and from many Religious bodies and NGOs. My colleagues as moderators, Sister Joan Kirby and Stein Villumstad, have highlighted some key points. My summary briefly reviews what we have achieved, in the form of a stock-taking, starting from a set of fundamental questions about when, how much, why, where, who, what, and how.
At the April Oxford Ethics Forum, I met Tunku Aziz who I had worked with some years ago in the context of the Asia Anti-Corruption Advisory Group. He is currently serving at the United Nations as Ethics Officer, in an assignment reporting to the Secretary General, with the objective of launching a UN ethics office and recommending a future course of action to the SG (his assignment ends in December). Mr. Aziz invited me to give a presentation to his team. After some months of trying to coordinate schedules with INT I took advantage of being in New York to follow up.
Last week I traveled far off the beaten track in western Guatemala. The only news of the world that registered there was the path of hurricanes heading in our direction (the area is still recovering from Hurricane Stan two years ago) and the Peruvian earthquake (the areaâ€™s history is full of earthquakes and volcano eruptions) . But the central question on my mind was a global issue: what can religious communities do about the stark poverty that is so obvious there?
Awraham Soetendorp is a household name in the Netherlands so an English language symposium to celebrate his life and mark his formal retirement as rabbi of a Reform Jewish congregation in the Hague last month was quickly over-subscribed. Those lucky enough to attend were in for an eclectic treat: wise words, history, politics, provocative suggestions, music, and theology all woven together with good humor. It was a well timed reminder, at a time when Dutch politics are often tense and polarized and many Muslim immigrants meet intolerance, of what is finest in the Dutch traditions of pragmatism and spirit.