The engagement of religious diplomacy within the United Nations systems has become increasingly important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The editors argue that effective religious diplomacy must reflect the great diversity of religious and spiritual expressions within human communities. The editors argue that this can best be achieved through a worldview shift within the United Nations systems. Religious engagement in the United Nations systems has been understandably constrained by limited and formal organizational structures and conventions. However, the existing patterns of engagement mitigate against the very goals they seek to achieve. The editors argue that expanded, yet measured, religious inclusion will strengthen social cohesion in the global community. Contributors demonstrate how communities become stronger when marginalized minority voices are included in public discourse. The editors further argue that governance has a responsibility to ensure a safe environment for this interaction. The editors propose that the United Nations adopt the posture of "loyal opposition", that is inherent in parliamentary democracies, to serve as a guideline for expanded religious engagement. The contributors advance this proposal with illustrations from multiple contexts that address a diverse array of social problems from perspectives rooted in theory and practice.
Sherrie Steiner is assistant professor of sociology at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
James Christie is ambassador-at-large for The Canadian Multifaith Federation.
James Christie and Sherrie Steiner
PART I BEYOND DUALISM FOR RELIGION AT THE UNITED NATIONS
Chapter 1: Religion at the United Nations: Challenges or Opportunities?
Chapter 2: The Case for New Avenues of Engagement
Sherrie M. Steiner
PART II LOYAL OPPOSITION FROM POLITICAL TO RELIGIOUS
Chapter 3: The Legacy of Westminster in Democracy and the Loyal Opposition
Chapter 4: Loyal Opposition beyond Westminster
Chapter 5: Freedom of Religion or Belief as Essential to a Humane World
Chapter 6: Cosmopiety and‘Controversy for the Sake of Heaven’
PART III DIVERSITY OF VOICES AND ISSUES
Chapter 7: Loyal Opposition as a Gospel Imperative
James T. Christie
Chapter 8: Insights into Loyalty from Living in Two Worlds
Chapter 9: Speaking Truth to Power
Chapter 10: Women’s Rights as Human Rights in Islam
Chapter 11: Definitions of Dissent – The Canadian Culture Wars
William A. Blaikie
Chapter 12: Religious Engagement with the G20
Chapter13: Evangelicals Securing a Seat at the UN Table
Chapter 14: Swords, Ploughshares, and Reimagining UN Engagement
Chapter 15: Pacific Spirituality and Changing the Climate Change Story
Upolu Lumā Vaai
Chapter 16: Rising in the Face of Erasure to Experience Joy
Chapter 17: Religious Leader Engagement with Peacebuilding & Development
PART IV QUO VADIS
Chapter 18: Interreligious Diplomacy and Loyal Opposition
Chapter 19: From Pandemic to Planetary Community
“When we say that North Americans are secular, we do not mean that they are not religious. The degree of religiosity is much higher here than in Europe, but there is no official state religion. This volume is much needed, and helps us to better understand both the political and the religious.”
. “This volume breaks new ground in the area of the intersection of religion, law, and politics. It contains 19 well-written chapters by academics and religiously involved practitioners from around the world , all of whom who have had real hands-on experience either attempting to implement their faith in political arenas (particularly the United Nations) or who have researched and attempted to implement this important area of life in their own societies. The volume should furnish many ideas for all those interested in how religious faith can be made relevant in today’s complex world. I recommend this effort heartily to all interested in understanding the role of religion in a 21st century already torn by wars, racism, inequality, and a catastrophic pandemic.”
“Holding the two in creative tension, Religious Soft Diplomacy and the United Nations recognizes both the contributions of diversity in unique aspects of each religion in the shared legacy of human spirituality, along with an increasing appreciation of underlying sources of commonality which might potentially aid in the quest for peace.”
"In bringing this book together, Steiner and Christie are to be congratulated on assembling such a diverse array of voices who point to the importance of the role of religion in the international political sphere. Often overlooked by both scholars of religious studies and political science, religious communities and institutions have often been active partners with the United Nations and other agencies and associations at the highest political levels. Here, we see the voices of practitioners and advocates speaking about their work and the ideas behind it, particularly in relation to the compelling notion of a "loyal opposition". This will be a great resource text for scholars, students, politicians, and others seeking to understand the dynamics of such work from the inside."
“This genie, religion, cannot be forced back into its bottle, observes Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, the world's leading interreligious body. Yet, she acknowledges, ‘To engage with religion requires discarding any notion of homogeneity’. Tackling these twin challenges: the force of faith's power and its complexity, Rev. James Christie and Sherrie Steiner as editors have assembled a rather eclectic group of scholars and activists in a weighty collection that addresses religious roles in global governance. Authors explore how that genie might serve in contemporary global institutions as a meaningful, constructive actor to advance the central, hopefully shared, ideals of human rights, peace, and justice. While the book's arguments are built around an ideal of loyal opposition, the message that emerges from diverse perspectives is less of a coherent political voice of difference than of multiple ideas and actors with much to offer on today's vital issues. Assembled as the COVID-19 pandemic challenges ideas and institutions, the collection includes some gems of historical exploration. Authors highlight both opportunities and challenges inherent in engaging with religious actors in development as a whole. The book whets the appetite for new ways to engage in sorely needed constructive and oppositional dialogue about rebuilding our future.”
In this important and timely book, the editors and contributors set out persuasively why and how religion is an essential component of—and that it should be valued for—its past and present influence on our global polity, especially as a constructive challenge to the discharge of international politics. It is encapsulated in the concept of a loyal opposition, tracing its origins and emphasis on peace and unity, including religious freedom, applying fundamental truths, rights of women, and how these can be more integrated into the way in which increasingly we need to govern our world in transnational ways.