From 3-9 December at over 200 pleniary sessions over 8,000 representatives from more than 200 of the world's religions and major faith groups (including atheists and humanists) are meeting to discuss issues of importance in Melbourne, Australia at the World Parliament of Religions.
Aside from weather determining the time of year and location of the gathering, it is a prescient moment in history as new troops are committed to the conflict in Afghanistan in what could be a defining moment of a generation and the UN Conference On Climate Change opens in Copenhagen.
The topics under discussion will include all the major issues facing humanity.
Of particular focus will be climate change and environmental sustainability, indiginous rights and the eradication of poverty, as well as the burgeoning international diplomatic issue of the interrelationships of the Islamic community on a global scale .
For more stories see here.
Standard opinion understand parliaments to be standing institutions which take place almost every day of the working week, almost every week of the year, but this event is compared to the Olympics - indeed, on terms of scale and frequency that is the only adequate comparison.
But parliaments weren't always seen in such a way.
In medeival times parliaments began to be called on the behest of monarchs as they sought to levy new taxes, primarily in order to raise armies for security purposes (and vendettas). Over generations of continuiing strife the restless public grew tired of being run roughshod over and demanded prior approval.
However these parliaments often began to discuss tangential issues relating to the means and manner in which the decisions reached could be found to be politically acceptable - they set the precedents by which the principles of good government were established. These included legitimacy, accountability, transparency and representativeness. As such 'prior approval' gradually lead to 'advise and consent'.
I discussed this in a bit more length here and here.
It's of particular interest to me because Reading Abbey was a major location for the first English parliaments.
One of the massive frustrations I find I get myself into with people who have preconcieved ideas about the way the world works is that they have a very narrow view of what actually happens out there. Admittedly the limitated preoccupations of our media must take it's share of responsibility for not providing adequate or sufficiently balanced information, but our interests reflect on our own political mindset too.
I mean, it is easy to say that someone else says such-and-such, or to categorise the general thoughts of groups of people, but that always falls into the trap of inaccurate extrapolations.
So it's kind of a shame that the big issues considered by the WPoR will not be given similar media coverage as other areas of democratic debate, but that's only to be expected when our media is organised on a national basis.
Now I could stray into arguing about which belief system is right and which is wrong, but such axiomatic debate do more to conceal than reveal. The fact is that different belief systems exist and we must deal with them. We must allow people to represent themselves in order to create dialogue by which agreed positions can be reached - we need a functioning political process.
In contrast to the 'Intelligence Squared' debate held at Wellington College locally (of whose style, tone and format I couldn't be more scathing, whatever anyone may think of the outcome) I am vastly encouraged by the mere existence of the event in Melbourne in that it demonstrates people are capable of coming together in a civilised way to reach agreements concerning the direction of civilisation.
I am quite confident in predicting a future where a series of representative 'world parliaments' takes on a more formalised framework in our consciousness - all that is needed is a more explicit articulation of the way it is already becoming reality.
Integrate Or Die!
Thursday, 3 December 2009
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- 'Tis the season of giving - Blood!
- Some thoughts on hunting
- Cultures of Change
- Angry post about the weather
- Heroes needed in the drugs debate -- part2
- Song of the day
- Heroes needed in the drugs debate - part1
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- Revenge of the proles
- Tiger, Tiger, on the back-burner
- Can't see the trees for the Woods
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- SNP outlines plans for referendum on Scottish inde...
- World Parliament of Religions Opens In Melbourne
- LibDems Drop EU Referendum Pledge
- Series: Integrate Or Die!
- Seasonal Male
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