Fall 2010

Religion, Globalisation, and Dialogue


Religious persuasion possesses an almost unparalleled power to play both a positive and a negative role in the pursuit of political and social harmony in today’s increasingly integrated global community. While those who seek to employ religion in order to promote conflict may be few in number, they are nonetheless organised, and are often extremely effective in achieving their aims. Under current conditions of globalisation it has never been more necessary to ensure that those who seek peace and harmony among the world’s major religions are also well organised and equipped, both intellectually and practically, to confront any threat or disruption to collective peace and order. What are the implications of religious diversity for the promotion of human rights? Does globalisation presage a syncretistic convergence of the world religions, or possibly even the end of religion as hitherto understood? To what extent are the particular and positive requirements of religious faith and commitment reconcilable with the universalising tendencies of a globalised economy? According to Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” To what extent is this article consistent with the core tenets of the world’s major religions? Does the universalising premise of globalisation contain within it the seed of secularisation? Are religious “rights” reconcilable with traditional pre-modern (or post-modern) communitarian claims of these religious identities? Is meaningful inter-faith, inter-religious dialogue possible under the conditions of globalisation? And if so, what are the appropriate forms for the promotion of this conversation?

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