By Marianna Richardson, Director of Communications for the G20 Interfaith Forum
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In 2023, the G20 Interfaith Forum (IF20) celebrated its tenth year of hosting forums in conjunction with the G20 Summit. Beginning in Australia in 2014, the G20 Interfaith Forum has offered an annual platform where a network of people who are linked to religious, governmental, and academic organizations gather to discuss global concerns. The mission of IF20 is to advance global solutions by collaborating with religious thought leaders and political representatives. In showcasing the broad, global impact of various faith traditions and philosophies from around the world, the Forum fills important gaps in the discussions surrounding the G20 Summits. As a landmark year, meetings were held in both New Delhi and Pune, India and the Forum’s concluding session was in the World Peace Dome, Pune, India.
2023 – The Year of the 4 C’s
The polycrises of this year caused IF20 to focus discussions around four broad agendas:
- COVID-19 continues to demand attention from religious and governmental leaders to address health system weaknesses and inequalities and to prepare for future pandemics.
- Conflicts around the world have escalated this year causing bloodshed and forcing people to leave their homes. Solutions must be found for peacebuilding efforts and solving the plight of forced migrants.
- Climate crisis demands extraordinary leadership from the public and private sectors.
- Children need to be safeguarded against the impact of these polycrises.
IF20 discussed these four broad agendas in the context of three overarching concerns.
- First, that action on international financial architecture is urgently needed, starting with addressing pressing third-world country debt and combating corrupt governmental practices.
- Second, IF20 supports the proposal to include the African Union as a G20 member. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi did invite the AU to participate in the 2023 G20 Summit.
- Third, in order to redress patterns of global inequalities, IF20 proposed an international commission to address racism.
More detailed policy briefs are available on the IF20 website (https://www.g20interfaith.org/if20-policy-briefs/).
Additional Regional Meetings
IF20’s global engagement extended beyond the main forums, with regional meetings held worldwide. To start off the year, G20 Interfaith President W. Cole Durham, along with various members of the IF20 communications team and several working group members, attended the IRF Summit and participated in important panel discussions. W. Cole Durham, president of IF20, talked about the philosophical and theological underpinnings of religious freedom, looking into how this essential human right is defined and how that definition is reflected in law and practice. He said:
“Religious freedom is not a mask to cover bigotry. It’s pluralistic, leaving open a real framework for us to live together—and it’s a modern key to living together in peaceful ways, protecting everyone. … A good way to start thinking about it is freedom OF religion, FOR religion, FROM religion, and IN religion.”
In February, IF20 held a celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, celebrating “The Role of Religious Communities in Africa: Advancing Peace, Human Dignity, Preservation of the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Freedom of Religion or Belief.” The addition representation of the African Union to the G20 Summit was also discussed and pushed at this meeting.
Additional events and the issues discussed in 2023 included Islamic perspectives on human dignity in Kuala Lumpur, and a symposium on religious freedom in Brasilia. In July , IF20 held a meeting in the Philippines to discuss solutions to pressing global challenges from a regional perspective. Both Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities (IAFSC) and the International Justice Mission were also involved in these meetings. Topics included climate change, online child exploitation, human trafficking, disaster resilience, education of children’s rights, and freedom of religion and belief.
In October, around 100 global participants gathered at PaRD’s Annual Forum on Religion and Sustainable Development in Berlin, echoing a message of hope, dignity, peace, and cooperation.
Participants exchanged ideas and successful approaches to contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During this time, the attendees collectively dedicated their efforts to crafting new action plans for the year 2024 within the PaRD framework. These plans encompassed critical areas, including but not limited to water, environment and climate action, gender equality and empowerment, health, sustaining peace, Freedom of Religion and Belief, as well as localization.
Finally, in December, additional meetings were held in preparation for IF20 meetings in Brazil for 2024.
IF20 embraced digital engagement through a series of webinars, addressing topics ranging from religious, ethnic, and racial violence to the manifestation of neo-colonialism in the cacao industry. These online discussions facilitated global conversations on the interconnected challenges facing humanity.
The Year-End Document
A comprehensive year-end document is available on the IF20 website, offering deeper insights into the forums, regional meetings, and webinars of the past year. Most of these events were recorded and can be accessed on the IF20 YouTube channel.
Please enjoy reading the document to understand in more detail the rich discussions and diverse perspective IF20 shared throughout the year 2023.
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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.