I was able to take office as the secretary general to the largest global interfaith organization – Religions for Peace - with interreligious councils (IRCs) composed of senior-most religious leaders representing their religious institutions, in 90 countries, and 6 regional IRCs, a week before we had to ask all employees to work from home, in compliance with New York State law.
Since 2008, a number of articles/opinions have been written, on the nexus between religion and development.
In chronological order, the articles first made the case for why ‘religion matters’ to the attainment of developmental objectives, noting how religious leaders are critical to changing social norms which can be in contradiction to human rights, and noting the extent to which faith-based organisations (FBOs) have anyway served as the original social service providers known to human kind.
In 1994, Dr. David R. Hawkins wrote a book positing the difference between power and force (Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior
- the latest revised version came out in 2014).
A decade ago, it was difficult to get Western policy makers in governments to be interested in the role of religious organizations in human development. The secular mind-set was such that religion was perceived, at best, as a private affair. At worst, religion was deemed the cause of harmful social practices, an obstacle to the “sacred” nature of universal human rights, and/or the root cause of terrorism. In short, religion belonged in the ‘basket of deplorables’.
The French philospher Voltaire once said that “if we believe in absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”
Indiscriminate killing of self and innocent others, ostensibly in the name of some religion, is among the most absurd of beliefs. And rather than ceasing, the spiral of violence appears to know no end. There appears to be no locus, and no focus, beyond random killing.
In 2007, an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune argued that you “gotta have faith in the U.N”.
The simultaneity presented by the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus on one hand and militant barbarism ostensibly in the name of Islam on the other present the international development community - particularly the United Nations and international NGOs – with challenges, as well as opportunities.