"Woven by the Mercy of God": Conference highlights religion's role in social change
MADRID — A recent interfaith event, co-hosted by the Baha'i community of Spain, drew 200 participants to explore how religious communities can collectively work for the betterment of the world.
Titled "Woven by the Mercy of God", the event was held on 17 April 2016 and organized by multiple religious groups, including the International Monastic Association for Interfaith Dialogue, the social and missionary action section of the national Catholic Church of Spain, Turkish House, and the Baha'i community.
In the opening remarks, representatives of the Baha'i community identified the aims of the gathering as understanding the underlying unity among the religions of the world and exploring the role of religion in addressing complex issues facing humanity.
"All religious traditions capture certain facets of the great mystery," said D. Jose Luis Navarro, Catholic priest and President of the International Monastic Association for Interfaith Dialogue, acknowledging the inherent unity of diverse religions.
"Spain has a long tradition of interfaith activities," said Sergio Garcia, Director of the Baha'i Office of Public Affairs in Spain. However, he noted that a challenge often encountered in these fora is to raise the discussion of issues beyond the abstract. A goal of this event was to ground conversations in practical actions that could be taken by the various religious groups present.
"Despite what we see done at times in the name of religion today, the truth is that religion has been the cause of great social progress in the past," said Mr. Garcia, "we can harness its power for the common good today as well."
Participants explored the implications for the application of spiritual teachings to daily life and to the challenges facing their society. "Truth does not mean anything unless, in connection with justice, we try to apply it in the world," said Rabin Mario Stofenmacher of the Masorti Bet-El community.
Attendees acknowledged that the participation of various actors in society is required to achieve social change. "Transformation of society requires building capacity at the levels of the individual, the institutions, and the community," said Miryam Sanz, representative of the Baha'i community of Spain. "This process of positive change, in light of the vision of Baha'u'llah, must lead to a just, unified, prosperous, and sustainable world, where everyone can contribute to the generation of knowledge about social development."
Among the conclusions of the gathering was that religion must play a more significant role in combating prejudice and fanaticism. The religious communities represented identified this as an important first area of action.