Courtesy of IWM, I recently moved into the ninth district of Vienna. Many notable Europeans have lived and worked in the ninth district. Austrian composer Franz Schubert was born here in1797, Jewish professor Sigmund Freud treated his patients in this neighbourhood until his exile in 1938, German musician Ludwig van Beethoven died here in 1827, and Slovenian writer Ivan Cankar temporarily resided here in 1899. And this is but a small sample from a long and illustrious list.
Like anyone who had just adopted a new residence, I had to get my geographical bearings. It is good to know the limits of one’s habitat. Alsergrund, as the district is known, is well served in this regard. It has clear and unambiguous borders, delineated by the Gurtel in the northwest, the Danube Canal in the east, and Maria-Theresienstrasse, Universitatenstrasse, and Alserstrasse marking the borders in the south.
There is a park across from my apartment beside the Lichtental parish church. The children and many of the supervising adults who gather in the park to enjoy the sunny weather of early September probably couldn’t care less about the borders of the district. German, Polish, Turkish, and Croatian idioms float through the balmy air, and I’d wager that many of these weekend strollers, idlers, and chatterers of immigrant background crossed far more significant borders before they even reached Vienna. Indeed, if Europeans are defined as people of a continent that can access more than just their own ethnic and linguistic stock of meaning, then it is precisely these immigrants who are Europeans par excellence.
I sit on a neat green bench, my rented bicycle at rest beside me. I sit and watch, one anonymous European observing his fellow Europeans. I watch. I daydream. I contemplate. Nothing has caused more grief and trouble in the history of Europe than borders and territory, than the land and its guardians. Alas, Europe in this regard is far worse off than urban districts such as Alsergrund with their sharply drawn and unquestioned frontiers.
In order to conceive of Europe’s imaginary totality, one must employ the tools of physical geography, and yet the absence of a strict natural border on the eastern flank of the continent has created the need for another standard, the kind provided by symbolic geography. Europe’s external boundaries have shifted over time with changing political circumstances and social-historical periods. As a rule, however, these shifting borders have always been predicated on the “other” that must remain outside. Over the course of its history, whoever spoke for Europe defined it as “civilised” and thus the antithesis of the “barbaric” regions and religions, tribes and peoples, kingdoms and nations outside the gate. At various times, Europe’s exterior border has run along the Oder and Neisse Rivers, the ridges of the Carpathians and the Ural mountain ranges, the coasts of the Black and Caspian Seas, the Iron Curtain, and, most recently, the Schengen lines.
Fear of the “other”
The smallest common denominator in communal integration is fear. In the collective mind of the peoples claiming membership in Europe, the West and the East have come to acquire polarized values. In the European rhetoric devised by medieval Christianity, Islamic culture was perceived as the “other”. After the secular Enlightenment, it was Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the attendant communist ideology that assumed this negative role. Today Islam has once again become the “other”, being viewed across much of Europe as an anti-Christian, anti-Western and anti-modern threat. Europe, in short, rambles on in the durable tradition of defining itself via negativa: that is, by pointing a finger at what it is not.
if Europeans are defined as people of a continent that can access more than just their own ethnic and linguistic stock of meaning, then it is precisely these immigrants who are Europeans par excellence
But does Europe know what it is in the positive sense? Do we Europeans know what it means to be a European? The feeble nature of contemporary European integration, embodied in the European Union, was not caused by the worst economic crisis engulfing the length continent since 1930s; it was revealed by it.
The primary weakness of the elites who speak for Europe today lies in their inability to offer a coherent collective narrative, the failure to provide an integrative template for the common imagination. In its absence, many offshoots of political populism flourish. Fear mongers in the political class and in the forums of civil society excel at finding effective metaphors for a mentality of besiegement: full boat, fortress Europe, barricaded society. These conservative turns of phrase have only one goal, to hide the pursuit of profit behind the call for purity, to plaster ethnic slogans over economic interests. Appeals to the exclusivist concern for one’s own community seek to cover up the effects of globalization on the distribution of wealth, which has in fact contributed to the tragic erosion of what is arguably the most important European tradition: the tradition of social democracy and the welfare state.
In short, European political elites have proved themselves unable to deal critically with transnational global corporations and complicit financial institutions, and have thus reached for tried-and-true methods of diverting public attention. They turn immigrants, foreigners, and refugees into scapegoats. An enlightened segment of the public still recognizes these methods as “fascism with a smile” and condemns them as unacceptable, but the key issue is that expressions of chauvinistic populism against the “other”, alas, cannot be simply reduced to a deviation from the norm. They are a constituent part of the long-term process that saw during the post-war European integration as focused primarily on economic freedom and an unfettered marketplace. In the 1980s, the economic fundamentalism ushered in the corporate homogenization of everyday life. Today, the political solidarity that was once virtually guaranteed by the welfare state and its social safety nets appears as much a part of ancient history as the Berlin Wall.
For true believers, the invisible hand of the market is trusted to be a remedy for all ills. This became absolute doctrine after the fall of the famed wall. Today, despite the economic devastation of the current crisis, citizens of the European Union for the most part accept the market as the normative condition of life. Although the 1995 introduction of the euro as a new currency was clearly ill conceived, most intelligent commentators insisting that political union should have accompanied economic union for the project to stand a chance of success, the currency stumbles on. The jury is out; our future—and more relevantly, that of our children—lies in the balance.
The crisis of the euro notwithstanding, we have had plenty of time to get used to daily transactions in the currency, usable and valued in the so-called Eurozone regardless of national borders. But while the borders of nations still exist, the borders of currencies magically disappeared. What failed to disappear, however, was a lingering doubt in Europe as a common house of peoples and nations, and yet this being Europe, doubt is self-reflexive and so was cleverly integrated into the design of the banknotes themselves.
Consider: the five euro note features an image of a vaguely ancient viaduct that could have been erected anywhere in the Roman Empire. The ten euro note features a Romanesque portal, while the two hundred euro note features an opaque glass door and an anonymous bridge. Unlike the national currencies it replaced, the euro is too timid to tell a story. Not a single human face appears on these banknotes. These banknotes are utterly incapable of inspiring meaningful identification and fail to deliver on the imperative de te fabula narratur. They are abstractions, perhaps suitably, like money itself.
The feeble nature of contemporary European integration, embodied in the European Union, was not caused by the worst economic crisis engulfing the length continent since 1930s; it was revealed by it
But, oh, how I miss the portraits of Erasmus, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Mickiewicz, Velasquez, Newton, Goethe, Andrić. In contrast, the columns and arches on these notes hint at ruined empires, or virtual empires, ones that never actually existed but have been transformed into eerie nostalgia for some sort of real connection and community. They echo something lost in the sands of an irrecoverable past, a place with no foundation, no recognizable landscape. Indeed there is nothing familiar that we Europeans can identify with in these banknotes. They’re useful, at least for the time being, but they’re symbolically empty.
Just spending euros, however, will not make us Europeans. To be a European means to attempt to answer this crucial question: can Europeanism become a viable common collective narrative? We shall see. A European narrative will have to be cross generational. It will have to maintain a common cultural amalgamation of distinct ethnic traditions, reinforced by shared memory and the promise of a common future. It will need to provide symbolic order wherein a centripetal force would be able to counteract, but not abolish, centrifugal forces of primary identification that each of us feels as a member of our nation.
Consolations of the absurd
What is a nation? It is understood as a distinct and self-examining ethnic group, and its Romantic desiderata. It is understood as a political form of collective power that represents a genuine European invention and a dubious contribution to the world’s vocabulary and practices. While the roots of the nation lie in the ancient Greek polis, its modern form was shaped in 19th century, when ethnic groups asserted their distinct identities. In part, these groups were propelled by the idea of bourgeois emancipation, which was developed to counter the aristocratic empires. After the collapse of multi-ethnic Habsburg and Ottoman empires, the nation-state acquired enormous prestige and was elevated into the unit of international political order.
But the nation-state was little more than a machine for ethnic homogenisation. Its dominant ideology was the ideology of a dominant ethnic group, better known as nationalism. It elevated the idea of national unity over all other collective loyalties, identifications, and allegiances. The nation-states that emerged after 1918 rose on the ruins of the “European civil war” and subjected the state administration, education, social, and cultural life to a specific ethnic norm. Nationalism took the culture of the dominant ethnic group to be the supreme public good. Biological membership in the dominant ethnic group thus became the implicit standard for what was to be political citizenship. Those that did not belong to the dominant ethnic group were faced with assimilation at best or extermination at worst.
One would think that the situation would be different today. After all, there is no nation-state in post-imperial, post-WWII Europe, except perhaps Iceland, which does not contain at least one indigenous ethnic minority, not to mention the plethora of more recent immigrant communities. The European Union has become emphatically multinational and multi-ethnic. It is composed of various member nation-states that are, in turn, composed of various ethnic groups.
The absence of nationally specific figures on the banknotes of the euro hints at a consensus about the ancient, the imperial, and the Christian legacy, while the more recent past of Europe is neglected. National diversity is the twin sister of conflict, and conflicts regarding collective memories are particularly painful. It may have been arguably the best course to keep the design of euro banknotes vague and devoid of history, devoid of faces. But this very vagueness bears witness to a worrying truth: that the creation and maintenance of a common narrative that would integrate the paradoxes of European diversity confronts far greater obstacles than the development and facilitation of a mere common market.
The pursuit of a common European narrative may in the end turn out to be a Sisyphean task. But then I think of the wise acceptance of the absurd that Samuel Beckett penned – “I can’t go on, I must go on” – and I am comforted. It is the only good advice in hard times.
Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World. Africa’s Role, Challenges and Benefits
After a careful research to find the meaning and implications of the term “multipolar world” often used these days, the freedictionary and englopedia offer insights as a system of world order in which the majority of global leading powers coordinate and commonly agree on economic, political and cultural influence and acceptable directions.
Both dictionaries further explain that countries have multipolar approaches to foreign policy. Participating countries necessarily conceive multiple centers of power or influence in the world, have a multipolar approach to foreign policy. Multipolar world could mean the various differences in thoughts, views and ideas regarding anything in particular which different people desire to do across the world.
It appears from several reports that China and Russia intend to lead the new world order. Speeches from both sides are extremely critical on “based rules and regulations” given by the United States and Europe. The United States global dictatorship might end, so that the unipolar would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.
In practical terms and in order to lead multipolar system requires outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portrayed this practical approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method is full of slogans, highly limited. With the emerging new global order, China appears more open and integrative than Russia. Despite the fact that it madly advocates for creating and ultimate establishment of this multipolar world, Russia exits significantly from the global stage, thus isolating itself and further contributing towards its own “cancel culture” instead of the opposite.
Whether people like it or not, the United States will conveniently operate within the emerging multipolar system. It has the instruments to operate within the framework of multilateralism and integrative multicultural environment. The United States is and remains as an “indispensable” power. Russia and a few of its allies in this evolutionary process, without adopting cautious steps and strategic approach, will definitely remain “dispensable” in the end.
In order to deepen our understanding of the emerging multipolar world, it is useful to make comparisons. The United States new strategy acknowledges that Africa will shape the future – not just the future of the African people, but of the world. And as such deals with the civil society, women and the youth which it refers to as the megaphone of governance. These have influence on policies and processes engaging policy-makers.
It further works in various directions closely with the African Union, and one more new direction is the African diaspora. The United States has the largest African diaspora which has social inroads and business inter-linkages and a huge significant impact of developments inside Africa. These compared, Russia has grossly ignored African diaspora and even those African professional specialists it has indeed trained from Soviet times and currently. In the emerging new multipolar world, to overlook these would be a sad mistake from policy perspectives.
Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture, for that matter soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Examining, in broad terms, all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving one’s valuable traditions. Language, of course, plays its unifying role.
Some contradictions and different interpretations might exist. On the other hand, there are divergent views and different perceptions relating to the current geopolitical changes, but frankly speaking the study of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and the emerging interest in the Chinese and Russian languages, has been a long part of people’s lives, especially those who hope to move across borders and dream to have smooth interactions with other nationals from different countries around the world.
For the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet era, Russian language studies has been low, for example among the African population primarily due to lack of overwhelming interest and adequate motivation, and lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts at the Africa Studies Institute frequently say, and warmheartedly admit that things have slow with Russia’s return to Africa.
Most Africans prefer to study foreign languages to ensure smooth participation in interstate activities such as trade and in order to maintain relationship with people abroad. Foreign countries, for example Britain, the United States, European countries and now China are their traditional favorites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities throughout the year operated by foreign missions and NGOs.
Interpreted from different perspectives, Russia has not been a major economic giant in Africa compared to Western and European countries and China. Due to this historical truth, Africans have little interest in studying Russian language and its culture. The Russian language itself does not sound attractive in terms of its economic opportunity and therefore Africans prefer to study languages that readily offer opportunities. China is making huge contributions in the continent and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.
The obvious worse-case scenario is that the Russian government has not created necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence in the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible so there is no desperate demand for the Russian language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle-class which twice the total population of Russia, and constitutes 40% of 1.3 billion population of Africa. Travel and tourism is an increasingly huge business, the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – these are unknown to the African elite and the growing middle-class.
With the current evolving political and cultural processes, the West and Europe will still have a strong classical grip on Africa, influencing everything first from culture and tourism, and moving onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play correct strategic openness and welcome African travellers, tourists and visitors. Closing doors, in these critical times, might negatively distract Africa’s support for Russia.
The worrying tendency is that Rossotrudnichestvo, an agency under Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pays little attention to educational and cultural questions in Africa, compared to its assertive counterparts – USAID, Alliance Française de France, The Goethe Institute, British Council, Instituto Cervantes that operate throughout the world.
Another Russian organization – Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting Russian language and culture abroad, does extremely little in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, cultural officers work in all the 38 Russian embassies in Africa.
Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military equipment supplies to French-speaking West Africa. Nowadays, China is being viewed as a strong strategic partner in Africa given its (China’s) strong footprints in diverse economic sectors. China has more than 20 Confucius Centers, and a party school in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues, – these are completely not on the Russia’s radar.
Russia allegedly allows its own ‘cancel culture’ and significantly not by the United States and its European allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with public perceptions through openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has review itself and try to focus on building relations, both with substance, trustful and refined approach, and strategically engage with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions in Africa.
By and large, Russia has to intensify its people-to-people connections soft power and cultural diplomacy with Africa. There is a huge cultural gap of new thinking, working with young professionals and associations to promote people-to-people diplomacy through business links, cultural exchanges and competitions. As Russia charts loudly for multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach especially towards the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Late October, during the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, the focus was on matters related to the changing geopolitics and civilisation diversity, the new world order and its future developments. Under the theme – “A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone” – the four day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.
President Vladimir Putin discussed, at considerable length, so many controversial questions. According to him, classic liberal ideology itself today has changed beyond recognition. Predicted the end of United States global dominance, but fell short in proposing an appropriate Russia’s template – the principles and mechanisms – for realizing the lofty idea and approach to establishing multipolar world.
Putin did not say anything about Russia becoming a power, but awarded that position to China. Giants like China, India and Indonesia with large population are showing economic growth; in Africa large countries – some of them with a population of 200 million – are emerging and making progress, as well as countries in Latin America.
According to him, Russia still have friends around the world. He mentioned that in Central America and Africa, the Russian flags are flying everywhere. “There are flags in European countries and in the United States too, we have many supporters there. By the way, a large proportion of the US population adhere to traditional values, and they are with us, we know this,” he added in his assertive conversation at the Valdai gathering.
Putin, along the line argued that the support for multipolar order largely exists in the global south. Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States. He appreciated Africa’s struggle for independence and against colonialism. These absolutely unique relations were forged during the years when the Soviet Union and Russia supported African countries in their fight for freedom.
In this context and in relation to Africa, Natalia Zaiser, Founder of the African Business Initiative Union, apparently talked about the new historical stage, need to establish new or different institutions of international partnership.
Her series of questions to Putin: “Mr President, what is your vision of a new international partnership institution? Which basis of parities is Russia ready to offer at the international level? Which mechanisms, tools and personalities are needed to acquire new allies, partners and friends, not at a declarative level but at the level of unquestionable responsibility in terms of agreements? Do you think we should also change or build up other approaches within the future international partnership?”
Putin’s answer was: “We must and we can focus on cooperation, primarily, with countries which have sovereignty in taking fundamental decisions. This is my first point. My second point is that we need to reach a consensus on each of these decisions. Third, we need to secure a balance of interests. As part of which institutions can we do this? Of course, these are primarily universal international organizations, and number one is with the United Nations.”
Higher Education and Diplomacy: Essential Skills for Becoming a Diplomat
Do you want to become a diplomat? Are you interested in learning more about diplomacy? If yes, you should know that diplomatic skills play a key role in today’s global society. Therefore, mastering these skills is crucial for students who aspire to pursue a career in international affairs or diplomacy.
A career in diplomacy requires specific knowledge and expertise beyond academic study. To achieve their goals. Young diplomats must master various aspects of communication and negotiation. With conflict management, crisis response, cultural awareness, and language proficiency.
“Diplomatic skills” encompass a wide range of abilities. From interpersonal relations to public speaking and effective leadership. These skills are essential in negotiating agreements between countries, improving trade relations, and resolving conflicts. Here are the crucial skills for becoming a diplomatic.
Although there are no set educational prerequisites to enter the field of diplomacy. A degree in a relevant subject can help hone the abilities needed to succeed in the industry. Writing assignments are often very important for university students.
Most colleges require that students complete at least three academic papers per semester. And since these papers usually take several weeks to complete. You must learn to give yourself plenty of time to craft a high-quality piece. It would be best if you always doubled check the assignment requirements before starting to write your paper. Make sure you’ve covered every aspect of the assignment, use a Fixgerald plagiarism checker to ensure your papers are unique and meet the necessary requirements, and check your topic selection to referencing style. If you need help figuring out where to start, consider asking your professor for guidance.
Since diplomats might go in several different directions professionally. Knowledge in a wide range of disciplines is useful. All candidates, however, need to have a solid grasp of international relations and diplomacy. So many people choose to major in similar fields.
For example, a master’s in global studies and international relations prepares students to understand the complex interplay of politics, law, economics, and security worldwide.
You can choose from four concentrations. Thid includes global health and development, conflict resolution, diplomacy, and international economics and consulting.
U.S. diplomats have varied levels of education, from high school diplomas to doctorates.
In a great number of nations, including the USA and UK, among others. To enter the diplomatic service, one must first score well on a general aptitude test. Candidates for FSO positions should therefore brush up on their foundational skills such as algebra, reading comprehension, and reasoning in advance of taking these exams. The purpose of such tests is to gauge the applicant’s general knowledge.
It is helpful but not required to have a background in history, politics, law, or human rights. Most embassies and consulates will tell you that learning about government and international politics is essential if you want to work in diplomacy as a career.
For the simple reason that the United States mandates pre-departure language training for all successful applicants. Being able to speak the language well is not a prerequisite for a diplomatic position. However, your application will stand out more if you have international experience and can speak two or more languages. It is more valuable than knowing Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu to be able to speak and write your native language.
After a person has done well enough on the test to get in. Most embassies and consulates will perform exhaustive interviews and screenings to establish if a candidate is qualified for a foreign service position.
The field of foreign service is a challenging one. The ability to keep in touch with loved ones is a challenge for FSOs. This is because officers frequently have to uproot their families in order to serve, and the job itself can be strenuous. However, this in no way diminishes the value of a career as an FSO. There are always a lot of prospective FSOs and experienced officers at an embassy or consulate, all of whom want to get posted somewhere exciting.
Rookies will generally be sent to the most dangerous places first. Since seniority is the most important factor in finding a new job. If you want to be a good FSO, you need to be able to adjust to change. They need to be self-aware enough to see when they need assistance, and determined enough to put in the work required to succeed.
Are you interested in studying to become a diplomat? There are plenty of opportunities, and you don’t even need to go abroad to get them. The reality is diplomacy is both a science and an art. And because it involves negotiation skills, communication ability, and conflict resolution. It requires specific skills. To become a good diplomat, you need to develop these essential skills.
With the pandemic still hanging over our heads and a looming global recession, there’s a simple question before us: Will the world move forward–or fall back?
If we want freedom to spread, open societies to grow, trade to increase, and economic growth to advance, we must all see these as interconnected. They transcend day-to-day politics and grow instead from older, deeper sources, particularly religion. Not the kind imposed from above, but the kind that grows through and across societies and cultures. For those who understand the value of that kind of faith, what has happened in Bali, Indonesia must be engaged.
There is a remarkable convergence of religious wisdom and perspective in Indonesia this week; all the world needs to pay attention, especially the parts that might have looked down on the so-called Global South. Recent weeks have seen contentious elections and surprising volatility even in the most stable countries. In Sweden, a nationalist party has surged to the forefront. In the United Kingdom, three Prime Ministers in a matter of months.
Beyond and behind these surprising headlines is a gathering global turbulence.
The institutions that inspired free trade, open borders and remarkable economic growth are deteriorating. We have several choices before us.
We can do nothing, but that would hardly provide us much hope for the future. We would only face greater headwinds and worse outcomes. We can replace those institutions, but there are few if any convincing or compelling ideas about what those substitutes would be. Or we can work to critically examine our institutions, see where their foundations are weakening, and seek out thoughtful ways to replenish and renew them.
In Bali, the R20 is launching to pursue that path of replenishment and renewal. Launching through and alongside the Group of 20 or G20, that body’s Religion Forum (“R20” for short) will mobilize faith leaders to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of peace, progress and prosperity in the 21st century. Among the R20’s goals is “infusing geopolitical and economic power structures with moral and spiritual values.”
One of the world’s senior Islamic scholars, Dr. Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, announced on day one of the R20: “Major global challenges today are not merely political or economic … They are moral. And navigating the world out of these crises requires moral leadership. This year, the world’s religious leaders are for the first time part of the G20. It is time we acknowledge that religion must be part of the solution for global crises.”
This is exactly what the G20 needs; even many of its most stable countries are stumbling. Like the United States, some lack shared unifying practices–a monarchy is one example–and so their polarization becomes ever more severe. Could thoughtful, compassionate, and genuine religious traditions, developed over generations to become meaningful pillars of diverse societies, be the answer?
As a member of the nobility of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu, a 600-year-old historical thalassocracy, I have dedicated many years working with traditional Islamic monarchies in Southeast Asia and have a unique viewpoint on why the R20 matters. Considering I was born in the Roman Catholic faith, this might be a rare perspective of course, since many in the West–the historic core of the developed world–know comparatively little about Islam or Southeast Asia.
Let alone Islam in Southeast Asia.
Which is why launching the R20 in Indonesia is massively meaningful. Not only is Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but it is also of course a G20 economy, a secular democracy, and home to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a unique organization that represents some 100 million moderate Muslims–a huge portion of Indonesia’s population. Its General Chairman, Mr. Yahya Staquf, is a compelling Muslim thinker and scholar, who has challenged critical misinterpretations of Islam.
In my purview, the NU is a major reason why Indonesia has remained a secular democracy.
To begin this conference in such a dynamic society is incredibly heartening; not only does the Forum gain from the experience of one of the world’s largest Muslim bodies, but that body (the NU) is also closely partnering with the previously mentioned Muslim World League, the world’s largest Islamic non-governmental organization, to build the R20. A wise pairing: NU promotes a pluralistic approach to Islam, with roots in Southeast Asia going back many centuries. That makes the Muslim World League a natural partner and amplifier.
Behind its Secretary-General, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Muslim World League has become a remarkable force for moderation, inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, and global religious consciousness. The NU and the MWL reach huge numbers of Muslims, the world’s fastest-growing faith community, much of which lives outside the G20. If the principles of an open world order are to survive and expand, they will need to find ways to engage audiences beyond their borders.
To convince them that their values and many of the original sources of the G20’s dynamism are not at odds. That is something NU, the Muslim World League, and the R20 can well do.
To say nothing of their wider reach. In that spirit, in fact, the Muslim World League announced at the R20 “a new humanitarian fund for the victims of war everywhere.” Not only is the fund not directed only to Muslims, but it also reaches beyond Muslim-majority countries more broadly. Dr. Al-Issa emphasized that Ukraine would be a primary area of the fund’s focus. That is sure to encourage other faith leaders in attendance that the R20 is not just an exercise in lofty rhetoric, but active, on-the-ground engagement.
His Holiness Pope Francis has already addressed the R20; he is joined in his participation by other leaders of the Catholic Church, the world’s largest single faith denomination, as well as senior representatives of the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, representing 600 million believers in over 140 countries. That is not to mention clergy from Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, as well as other Christian and Muslim traditions. In that spirit, the next G20 (and R20) will take place in India, followed by Brazil; the world’s largest Hindu and Catholic countries, respectively.
India is a place where more conversations about religion, the state and freedom need to happen urgently. About 84% of the world’s population say religion is important, if not very important to them—the future of the world’s freedom and flourishing requires a thoughtful engagement with the thoughtfully religious. Without religious freedom, there cannot be economic freedom. Without economic freedom, we are unlikely to see meaningful, sustainable, long-term human flourishing. And in that aspect, Dr. Al-Issa is right, religion must be part of that process.
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