Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monologue of Trivialization


Marco of Povo De Baha just shared this with the group of Baha'i bloggers I correspond with. You can file this under "You've Got To Be Kidding Me":

Tehran to Host "Religion in Modern World" Conference

--The International conference of "religion in the modern world" will be held by Geneva-based Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations in Tehran on October

"The conference will be held in cooperation with Oslo-based Center for Peace and Human Rights headed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.

The conference is a follow-up to last June's conference.

Prominent scholars from France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the United States, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Bosnia and Pakistan will discuss in the conference different topics ranging from "relations of religion and politics, and the reciprocal effects of religion and politics on reducing international tensions" to " ways for launching strategic relations between Islam and West".

Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kufi Anan, former secretary general of Unesco Federico Mayor and former chairman of the European Commission Romano Prodi as well as former presidents and prime ministers of Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal, Sudan , France and Bosnia will be attending the conference as special guests of former Iranian president Seyyed Mohammad Khatami."

I'll say it again, no religious community (or state claiming to represent the interests of that community) can have legitimacy in the 21st century if it does not respect freedom of conscience. No amount of star-studded dialogues will change that.

Barnabas put it quite eloquently in a recent post:

"I have witnessed the failure of dialogue.

The much vaunted EU-Iran human rights dialogue that was going to resolve Iran’s human rights problems some years ago ran into the sand. Over successive meetings with British government officials who had started out full of enthusiasm for the dialogue I saw them become more and more morose about it, until they abandoned any belief in this process.

Why? Because the Iranians ran rings around them, played them along, but refused to discuss a number of substantive human rights issues, including their persecution of the Bahá’ís. And this was in the days of that supposed reformer, Mohammed Khatami.

And I have personally participated in a Christian-Muslim “dialogue” session with Mr Khatami, hosted in Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury and chaired by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali.

Speeches were made. Khatami spoke fine words about “dialogue between civilizations”, but nothing resembling dialogue took place. when I questioned Khatmi about the treatment of the Bahá’ís in Iran, he obfuscated. In fact, a Shi’i scholar based in London chipped in first and told me that no one liked the Bahá’ís and the Bahá’ís would just have to get used to it.

So much for unconditional “dialogue”." (Read the whole post here)

Forgive me if I seem skeptical of this upcoming "conference". My prediction is lots of hot air and photo ops with little result. The people of the world are tired of "A-list" academics and politicians getting together to give speeches while civilization burns, especially when it gives credibility to those who do not deserve it. If this conference is to mean something the entire "dialogue" should focus on the need for religious freedom, particularly in the country hosting this "conference". Otherwise it will be a monologue of trivialization.

"People have grown weary and impatient of rhetoric and discourse, of preaching and sermonizing. In this day, the one thing that can deliver the world from its travail and attract the hearts of its peoples is deeds, not words; example, not precept; saintly virtues, not statements and charters issued by governments and nations on socio-political affairs. In all matters, great or small, word must be the complement of deed, and deed the companion of word: each must supplement, support and reinforce the other."
(The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 62)