SALT LAKE CITY — In a hall near the historic Palacio San Martín of Argentina’s Cancillería tucked into the heart of Buenos Aires, the director of the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue at Griffith University in Perth, Australia came to the podium last month and posed a question:
"I wonder where we'll be after 20 years, faded from public spaces or seen as legitimate, integral partners in policy development and social well-being," Brian Adams said, as he addressed the hundreds of faith leaders at the G-20 Interfaith Forum.
There were smart people in the room, including Deseret News reporter Kelsey Dallas, whose stories from the conference were reported not just in our news columns, but in dozens of newspapers in South America eager to have her content, but less eager to commit reporters to the conference. Her stories reflect the strong desire of those concerned with faith, policy, law and most notably, human suffering to contribute solutions to the world's major problems by putting people, not party or power, first.
Every major faith from six of the world's seven continents were there. But will the world listen to people of faith and allow their voice in the public square?
In another hotel ballroom, this time in downtown Salt Lake City Friday night, Arthur Brooks, the noted author, New York Times columnist and head of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, stood and addressed people of faith, elected officials (those are not mutually exclusive), and those who put time and money behind defending the U.S. Constitution and its values.
He said it's time to reject conventional wisdom and find a new way of problem-solving. He said the biggest problem in politics — and this comes as no surprise to anyone reading a newspaper or turning on a television — is polarization. Both sides of the political aisle seem to have contempt for one another. And if you have contempt for someone who has different views than you do, then you have no starting point for problem-solving because you believe they're worthless, he said.
Brooks then told the crowd, gathered for the Sutherland Institute annual gala, that it's time for a "revolution of love." He said, "Contempt is the enemy of unity."
Back in Argentina, the faith leaders would put it this way: Love your enemies.
Can faith in God and faith in a cause coupled with a love of others really solve the world's problems? Society has become more secular.
Given the state of the nation and the world, it certainly is worth a try.
Consider climate change and the warming of the planet. It is debated in terms of politics and little progress is made to solve the problem because people in power want winners and losers. Those gathered in Argentina want good stewardship of the earth.
As Kelsey reported: "Rabbi Bergman and other speakers urged faith groups to lead the way to a more meaningful discussion about environmental degradation. People of faith can talk about our moral obligation to protect the environment, replacing facts and figures with the faces of those who are suffering, like farmers in South America or people who live on the flooded coast of Japan."
Only weeks after the rabbi offered those remarks, a landmark report was issued by the United Nations' scientific panel on climate change.
The report from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change sounds a dire warning and says there will be worsening food shortages, fires and a die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, as the New York Times reported.
The call is for worldwide economic changes.
So governments will negotiate and talk about it. But imagine if people with a faith-based belief system were engaged in finding the solution from a position of having stewardship over the earth. And imagine if love replaced contempt in developing strategies, so that the only winner would be the best idea to help the planet, rather than who came up with the idea, or who can leverage climate change for political power.
Brooks spoke of "gratitude" for what we have as a key part of replacing contempt with love. These are not soft concepts. Consider: What is more motivating to changing behavior than faith in something and a love for someone? Marshall that and a problem as big as the world itself can be addressed and solved.6 comments on this story
Government leaders will head to Argentina at the end of November to tackle world trade issues, food shortages and shared global economic interests. "The Group of Twenty (G20) is a leading forum of the world's major economies that seeks to develop global policies to address today’s most pressing challenges," its mission statement says.
Those attending would do well to include the work of those who were at the site last month motivated by the simple goal of helping people, because whether one believes in God or not, those who share a belief that we are all God's children tend to want to look out for their brothers and sisters.
What's more motivating than that?