This post is also available in: العربية
The role of religion in the modern world – and in particular, how the stories and imaginative ideas concerning society held by different faiths around the world affect the way countries interact with each other in an ever more connected world – are explored in a new book from London’s Gingko Library.
Religious Imaginations – How Narratives of Faith are Shaping Today’s World is edited by James Walters, founding director of the London School of Economics’ Faith Centre which works to promote religious understanding and interfaith leadership among LSE’s global student body and in government. It is based on a conference on the subject that the university hosted in 2017 and contributors include Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh; John Casson, who was British Ambassador in Cairo from 2014 to 2018; and Kamran Bashir, who teaches Religion and History at Camosun College, Victoria, British Columbia.
Foreign rights, including Arabic, are still available in a title which is acts like a spiritual Davos, in which matters of faith are given as much weight as matters of economics.
Walters notes that ‘the religious imagination engages life and death, material and metaphysical, earthly and heavenly,’ and observes: ‘Western theories of international relations and global order have tended to overlook this significance…the modern Western-European understanding of religion [is] as an essentially private matter – personal rather than social, spiritual rather than political, supplementary rather than fundamental to everyday life’.
In a thoughtful essay drawing on his experience in Egypt, Casson says there is much that diplomats can learn from religion. “I would like to remind those who serve as representatives of religion that we diplomats need you and the resources of faith and theology you can draw on for our wider diplomatic task….I end by appealing to religious leaders and scholars of religion to develop their political and diplomatic literacy as we diplomats develop our religious literacy.”
Other contributions look at the role of religion in environmental matters and ask what scope for dialogue exits between Jewish, Muslim and Christian ways of imagining the future.
It is a dense, thought-provoking book in which Casson concludes: ‘Without religious imaginations we will not in the end be able to sustain globalisation.’