Global Institutions, including the United Nations, and regional entities, such as the European Union, now recognise religion as an important factor in transnational and international interactions. Despite the foundations of both the UN and EU in avowedly secular values and norms, they are today willing to work with selected religious actors to help shape international policy agendas towards more cooperative and benign outcomes.
Over the last two decades, the global community has turned its attention to the potential for a dialogue of religions, cultures and civilisations in order to bring about more peaceful, cooperative and purposeful international relations. This focus was stimulated mainly by the seemingly inexorable rise of Islamist violent extremism terrorism and the post 9/11 ‘war on terror’. These developments and events focused much attention on the role that religion is playing and might play in such a dialogue. Questions asked in the panel, include:
· To what extent, if at all, can religious actors help to establish normative foundations for a peaceful and ecologically sustainable world order?
· To what extent, if at all, can religious actors help to generate necessary wisdom, energy and expertise to find constructive pathways across geopolitical fault lines that pit major centres of power against each other?
· To what extent, if at all, can religious actors help refute fault lines that may serve to polarise states, ethnic and faith communities, and civilisational fault lines, most dramatically between the ‘West’ and the ‘Muslim world’?
In sum, the panel aims to examine the contemporary role of religious actors in international relations with a focus on inter-faith dialogue in relation to various kinds of global institutions.