G20 Religion Forum (R20) Plenary Session 2:

Identifying and Embracing Values Shared by the World’s Major Religions and Civilizations

Professor Mary Ann Glendon:
“The aspirations of the R20 are ambitious and the obstacles great…. [but] the time is right for a multicultural, multinational effort to broaden and deepen the quest for shared civilizational values.”

BALI, Indonesia, 2 November 2022 — A diverse array of preeminent religious, political, business, and academic leaders gathered on the first day of the R20 Summit to discuss the possibility of identifying and embracing values shared by the world’s major religions and civilizations. Their discussions were a direct response to a call issued by Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf in his speech at the R20’s opening plenary. In his remarks, Mr. Staquf invited the world’s religious leaders to identify “shared values common to all religions, which [may] become the basic reference point from which we can embark upon a joint endeavor” to “ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of global solutions, rather than problems.”

The session began with a keynote address titled “The Quest for Shared Civilizational Values,” delivered by Harvard Law Professor and former US Ambassador to the Vatican, Mary Ann Glendon. Author of the book, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Professor Glendon is an expert on the emergence of the post-World War II human rights project.

In her speech, Professor Glendon observed that:

The decision to incorporate this summit of religious leaders and scholars for the first time in the G20’s annual meeting schedule is a landmark event, and surely most welcome to all of us here today. Yet one cannot fail to notice that it has created a certain amount of puzzlement in international policy circles. Perhaps you have heard questions like: “What has religion got to do with the aims of the G20 to promote global economic stability, growth and prosperity? Or, “How can religion help to meet the increasing challenges to social harmony, political stability and economic growth when it has so often been a divisive element, and when religious teachings have so often been used as pretexts for violence?” And, “How can there be any shared moral and spiritual values, given the great differences among the world’s cultures and religions?”

Such questions will hover in the background of our discussions today and tomorrow as we share thoughts on such challenging topics as how to deal with historical grievances, how to reconcile universal principles with respect for cultural diversity, and how to assure that religion will be a source of solutions rather than problems in years to come. . . .

It must be admitted that the aspirations of the R20 are ambitious and the obstacles great. So it is to be expected that they will be dismissed by many as unrealistic — just as the aims of the post-World War II human rights project were dismissed by the so-called realists of that day. Yet the 20th century human rights project proved that ideals are real, as real as earth and water. And today, as this gathering shows, there are many men and women of good will who are ready to take up the challenge of making them real again.

To be sure, the path forward will be strewn with hazards and obstacles. But it’s worth remembering that the men and women who dreamed 75 years ago of an international order based on shared values were not naïve in their idealism. They had lived through two world wars and severe economic crises. After seeing human beings at their best and worst, they took encouragement from the fact that while the human race is capable of great evils, it is also capable of imagining that there are better ways to live, of articulating those shared values in declarations and constitutions, and of orienting their conduct toward the ethical norms they recognized. . . .

Years from now, people not yet born will form opinions regarding our stewardship of the post-war generation’s legacy, which was founded upon idealism tempered by realism. They will pass judgment one day on whether we enhanced or squandered the inheritance handed down by men and women who once strove to bring a standard of right from the ashes of terrible wrongs.

So I will close with profound gratitude for the decision to call this historic meeting in Bali — and with great anticipation for the results of our discussions!

The complete text of Ambassador Glendon’s keynote address is available online, and her speech appears in the following video:

Prof. Glendon’s keynote address was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Rebecca Supriya Shah, a Trustee of the Divya Shanthi Association in Bangalore, India. The speakers included:

  • The Honorable H. Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Minister of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, who delivered an address titled “Pancasila Nation and a Tale of Two Globalizations.”
  • His Excellency, Dr. Hamdan Musallam Al-Mazrouei, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mohammed bin Zayed University for the Humanities (United Arab Emirates).
  • His Excellency, Andrés Pastrana Arango, President of the Centrist Democrat International and former president of the Republic of Colombia, who delivered an address titled “Western Humanism, Christian Democracy, and Humanitarian Islam: An Alliance for the Twenty-First Century.”
  • The Honorable M. Arsjad Rasjid P. M., Chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or KADIN, who delivered an address titled “Infusing Religious Values into the Realm of Business and Economics.”
  • Professor Alberto Melloni, Secretary of the Foundation for Religious Studies (fscire.it) and UNESCO Chair on Religious Pluralism and Peace at the University of Bologna (Italy), spoke about “The Greatness and Misery of Interreligious Dialogue.”

The session concluded with reflections on values shared by the world’s major religions and civilizations, delivered by His Holiness, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami (photo above), an ordained Hindu monk of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) and Head of the BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute, Akshardham, in New Delhi, India. His address was titled “Let us Reach out to Extend the Circle of Global Harmony.” 

The complete texts or Power Point presentations of the following speakers are available online via the accompanying links: The Honorable H. Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, “Pancasila Nation and a Tale of Two Globalizations”; His Excellency, Andrés Pastrana Arango, “Western Humanism, Christian Democracy, and Humanitarian Islam: An Alliance for the Twenty-First Century”; the Honorable M. Arsjad Rasjid P. M., “Infusing Religious Values into the Realm of Business and Economics”; and His Holiness, Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, “Let us Reach out to Extend the Circle of Global Harmony.”

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