2022 Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs
Uniting Moral Influence and Governance to Eradicate the Systemic Injustices of Racism, Colonialism and Slavery
25 January 2022
8:00 – 12:30 EDT
To be held virtually by Zoom (registration will open soon)
The 8th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs, entitled Uniting Moral Influence and Governance to Eradicate the Systemic Injustices of Racism, Colonialism and Slavery [tbc] will be held virtually 8:00 – 12:30 EDT on Tuesday 25 January 2022. This concept note continues to evolve as the planning committee receives input from its expert reference group.
This Symposium will focus on the urgent need to transform our world, exposing and redressing the systemic injustices of racism, colonialism and slavery that continue to pervade all aspects of society – local, national and international. As a common table bringing together institutions of governance and of moral and cultural influence, it will explore how the lingering historical injustices shape the social inequalities that have been exposed by crises of global proportions including Covid-19.
The Symposium also aims to contribute to a move towards healing and reconciling our world. It will identify solutions and concrete recommendations for how the UN and governments, in partnership with religious bodies, faith-based groups and other stakeholders, can foster an antiracist and anticolonialist society - a society based on the genuine embrace of the whole human family as one humanity, bound by the imperative of respect of every person’s dignity and inalienable worth.
Racism and concomitant concerns of racial discrimination and xenophobia, colonialism and redress for historic slavery, as well as ending modern-day forms of slavery have become highly topical.
From the United Nations Security Council and Human Rights Council’s hearing from human rights and land defenders to movements against systemic injustices like Black Lives Matter to the recognition of graves of indigenous children, the world cannot ignore the history and necessity for changes in the systems that allowed and encouraged abuses to occur.
The International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015, is drawing to a close. 2021 is the twentieth anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa. And on September 21, 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted his report ‘Our Common Agenda’ to the General Assembly which states that “New approaches to proactively support the participation in public affairs of those who have traditionally been marginalized, including minority and indigenous groups, are also necessary.”
When it comes to addressing the lingering transgenerational traumas of slavery, several remarkable projects have seen the day, including the UNESCO project “Healing the Wounds of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery”. There is also the multiplication of commissions for truth and reconciliation showing unprecedented determination and global mobilization to address the scourge of racism. The upcoming Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022 – 2032) will focus on indigenous language users’ human rights. These, and many more initiatives, all provide immediate occasions for faith-based organizations to partner with UN agencies to contribute to the healing of people and the planet, and of international relations.
Shaping a just, inclusive, and sustainable future for the human family and the planet we all inhabit is a common task. Sounding a wake-up call, “Our Common Agenda” emphatically warned that “We need a pathway that protects people and the planet, allowing for sustainable development. This means broad shifts in what prosperity and progress mean, how to incentivize and measure them, and how to evaluate policies.” Addressing the intersecting pandemics and crises must be aimed at the achievement of a truly intercultural, multireligious, and pluralistic world.
Injustices have been done to real people, real nations, and the planet we share. The healing of our world and redressing the legacy of colonialism must be global, multilateral, intercultural, and multifaceted. Antiracism is a commitment to protect human rights and a sustainable future. We cannot postpone action.
Inequalities are forcing public institutions to revisit other crises that are intersecting with racism. Public discourse today is much more welcoming of a re-examination of people and institutions and their entanglement and complicity with racism, colonialism, and slavery.
Today, international institutions, governments, and religions have the historic opportunity and responsibility to address the multiplicity of injustices—local and international, global and planetary. With our heightened awareness of the intersecting character of these crises, analysed through the lens of gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and indeed of culture and religion, the time of reckoning is upon us.
Today, racism and attendant issues actively subverts our best imagination of what makes for peace and justice, for mercy and compassion, for dignity and equality. We must reverse course and redress historic grievances and forge a new future.
The self-appropriated rights to possess indigenous minds, lands and other resources have been embraced by religions and faith-based institutions embodied through policies based on manifest destiny, exceptionalism, and the Doctrine of Discovery.
Increasing signs of building a better future appear when religions, religious institutions and philosophies are unashamedly repudiating their past complicities with slavery, colonialism and racism. It is equally a sign of enlightened maturity for nations to recognize and repudiate their violent past of colonial aggressions, of abuses, and of violations of people’s human rights and the integrity of their communities.
The Symposium will address the ways in which the historic injustice of slavery, colonialism, and racism have lingered in our midst and exacerbate the many current challenges facing our world. It will explore how forms of ethnocentrism, tribalism, casteism, classism and colorism damage human relations and how such relations have been put asunder by classifications of power and supremacy, of superiority and inferiority, among human beings and their communities.
To overcome and abolish the intersecting crises brought about by slavery, racism, and colonialism, we must go beyond symptoms to the root causes. Addressing these crises, in fact, is a condition sine qua non for the healing that is desperately needed on all levels. The role of religion, as much as nation-states, in these intersecting historic and contemporary pandemics and crises are tangible.
Revisiting the various slaveries, colonialisms and racism in their historic intersections and social intersectionality will provide unique perspectives regarding how they have brought much suffering, lingering inter- and transgenerational traumas and deaths, not only of people of African descent but also indigenous peoples and peoples of color.
Antiracism must be one of the common goals in which the UN and its multilateral bodies work together on with religious and faith-based organizations.