By Marianna Richardson, Director of Communications for the G20 Interfaith Forum
I live in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range. The mountains are magnificent, but they block my view from seeing anything beyond their magnificence. When I hike to the top of Mount Timpanogos, the elevation allows me to see in all directions for hundreds of miles. If I stand at the pinnacle and look towards my home, the scene is familiar to me, but I am enjoying it from a totally different angle. As I turn away from this recognizable view, I see beyond the well-acquainted landscape and contemplate a new outlook that was previously beyond my reach.
THE PURPOSE OF VIEWPOINTS
The purpose of the blog Viewpoints is to present an opportunity for readers to gain a vista of understanding from a different angle or a glimpse from someone else’s mountaintop. The topics of the blog are based on the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs of the United Nations. The G20 Interfaith Forum builds on the vital roles that religious institutions and beliefs play in world affairs, reflecting their rich diversity of institutions, ideas, and values. Viewpoints supports the following core tenets of the G20 Interfaith Forum mission:
- Explore the links between economic development and religious freedom
- Facilitate constructive dialogue between societal leaders in faith, government, business, media, education, and other social institutions
- Foster communication channels by sharing ideas, experiences, and “best practices” in building peace and harmony
- Discover and affirm common values, virtues, and principles among diverse faith and philosophic traditions
Rather than being long, drawn-out research articles, these posts are personal statements of someone’s perspective based on their life experiences. For example, these first posts illustrate the range of voices that will continue in Viewpoints’ future posts.
His Eminence Grand Mufti Nedzad Grabus discusses the importance of understanding the different perspectives of religious groups:
I realize through my interreligious work that people often only think about their own religious beliefs. If we want to make a difference, we need to try to understand the beliefs of others. That does not mean that we will change our own religion or that we will convert to another religion, but we have to speak about others’ beliefs and understand their perspectives.
Sophia Caseiro, a professor at Polytechnic of Leiria, shares her perspective on respecting others as world citizens:
Religious actors have an important contribution to make, not only to teach people about the theology of their specific religion, but also to show how to care for others. All religions connect with the idea of respect for others…. We are all humans. We all have the same problems. We all have our defects. We all have our not so good parts. But we are alike. So, we must respect each other, and have respect for others’ views. It is not our background that defines us. It is not our faith. It is the individual.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt conveys both a retrospective and current look on freedom of religion, especially in Europe:
I can tell you personally that I was happy to receive the personal invitation to join the G20 in Riyadh. You know that having a rabbi be invited by Saudi Arabia was something which I think five years ago or ten years ago would have been an impossibility. It shows to what extent the world has changed. Not long ago, we celebrated the creation of a Jewish community in another Gulf state, the United Arab Emirates, and Pope Francis was invited for the first time. As the people of the world have learned the lessons of the past, they should try to become more accommodating, more confident, more liberal. I believe that Europe should lead the way.
Jonatas Machado, a law professor at the University of Coimbra, analogizes a chess game to the global strategy which the G20 Interfaith Forum should implement for success:
Life is complicated; it is like a chess game. You cannot win a chess game by using only one piece of the game. You combine them in a strategy and each of the different pieces is important for successfully maneuvering the global strategy…. We are in a complex world dealing with complex problems. We combine a variety of sources of knowledge and experiences to face those challenges. Religion can play a part in economics, law, politics, culture, art, and environmental science. In the G20 Interfaith Forum this year, we are exploring solutions to problems such as migration, food waste, hate speech, violence, and geopolitical issues. The challenge is to combine experts from these different subject areas and give them a strategy and purpose.
In an invitation to resolve differences, C.S. Lewis uses the metaphor of a house with a variety of doors; each door represents someone’s belief. Our personal challenge is to thoughtfully understand other people’s door choices or their choice to stay in the hallway: “When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.” Discovering a new outlook requires listening to a variety of ideas, opening doors of understanding. and maybe even looking into the hallway for new opinions.
The opinions expressed in Viewpoints will be varied because they are individual. It is important to stress that the blog posts do not represent the point of view of the G20 Interfaith Forum. Instead, this is a conversation of ideas expressed by a variety of people from different backgrounds, religions, academic disciplines, and countries.
We invite you to be a part of this important conversation as we explore the SDG’s from different vistas and outlooks.
Marianna Richardson is the Director of Communications for the G20 Interfaith Forum. She is also an adjunct professor at the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University.
 C. S. Lewis, The Complete C. S. Lewis: Signature Classics, Harper San Francisco, p. 11.