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Can Religions Be Democratized?

Name of your activity: Can Religions be democratized ?

Data and place: January 29, round 1 (matin), room K103

Terrain in which your activity is located: . Ethics, cosmovisions and spiritualities – resistances and challenges for a new world

Partners for your activity: Fireflies Ashram/Pipal Tree in association with The Alliance For a Responsible Plural and United World.

Type of partners you would like (type of organization and/or field of action) in case you do not know organizations of the type that you would like : Organisations concerned with Religions and Human Rights, Pluralism, Diversity and Democratic practice.

Themes and/or activities with which you would like to link up:
05. Defending diversity, plurality and identities
06. Social struggles and democratic alternatives – against neoliberal domination
08. Communication: counter-hegemonic practices, rights and alternatives
09. Arts and creation: weaving and building people’s resistance culture
10. Human rights and dignity for a just and egalitarian world

Transversal axis:
01. Social emancipation and political dimensions of struggles
04. Gender
05. Diversity

Profile of activity (as indicated on the WSF Web site): workshop

Keywords: Religions, Democracy, Pluralism, Human Rights

Is this activity linked to an activity that was organized for a previous WSF? Which and when? This activity is connected with a programme of Religions, Spiritualities and Democracy organized at the WSF in Mumbai 2004.

Aims of activity: To promote democracy and pluralism within the practice of religions and spiritualities all over the world. To promote religious renewal which works with a vision ‘Another World is Possible’, To build solidarity with other likeminded organizations. To integrate this process in the FPH programme of governance, alternative development and ethics.

Problems (challenges), practices (experiences), and proposals that you intend to present during activity:

We are involved with issues related to religious pluralism, governance, environment and media. We believe that structures and attitudes must both change and we have workshops, training sessions, direct action and media engagement to realise our objectives. One of our main concerns in recent years is to work towards religious renewal in the context of bigotry and fundamentalism.We beleive that religions must be rescued from authoritarian figures if it can allow people to work for democracy, pluralism and social justice. Our activities include re-thinking religious festivals and texts, promoting non-patriarchal inter-religious efforts for social and environmental change, conducting research on Religions and Ecology. We have also published books on Inter-cultural Change, Religions and globalisation,environmental education, Soils, Artists and Social Change etc. Fireflies/Pipal Tree works in close cooperation with the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World By and large the secular groups and movements at the World Social Movement do not believe that religions and spiritualities have any serious role to play in realising the motto “Another world is possible!”. This is not entirely because these groups and movements are short-sighted. Religions and spiritualities are also partly responsible for this mis-conception, for they have not always promoted justice, pluralism, democracy and ecological action.

In the twenty-first century there is even a serious fear that religions are promoting fundamentalism. Much of the Western world is now pre-occupied with Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, although we also have other forms of fundamentalism such as that of the Christian Right in America and the State terrorism of President Bush, the State terrorism of Israel, Hindu fundamentalism and the state terrorism we witnessed in the Indian state of Gujarat, and so on.

The social engagement of the different religions to promote justice, fight poverty and provide education to the poor is often overlooked because of the rise of fundamentalism. The bias that the secular left has towards religions also plays to marginalize the positive role that religions and spiritualities often play. People often forget the courageous role that Basic Christian communities, Islamic liberation theology, socially engaged Buddhism, Gandhian Hinduism and radical Judaism have played in fighting for peace, justice and human dignity.

However, it is also clear that the negative aspects of religions and spiritualities have also to do with the lack of democratic spirit in their day-to-day functioning. Many religious leaders are authoritarian and may even be under the misconception that God is speaking directly through them. Human rights atrocities are committed or condoned by some religious leaders. In many countries religions and spiritualities are closely allied with the ruling establishment and are unable to play a prophetic role in denouncing social wrongs and injustice.

A major expectation from this workshop is that we can launch “The World Social Forum of Religions and Spiritualities” to continue the work of democratising religions and spiritualities and harnessing their enormous potential for an alternative ethics, an alternative governance and an alternative development.

Other activities you are organizing at the World Social Forum 2005: Round Table of controversies on : Fighting Religious Fundamentalism ( with Bridge Foundation).


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