Religion and Development for People, Planet, Prosperity, and Peace
RELIGION AND DEVELOPMENT FOR PEOPLE, PLANET, PROSPERITY, AND PEACE
The Journal of Dharma, from its inception, understands religion as “one of the deepest dimensions of culture,” and is committed to “disseminate the seeds of the Sacred in every bit of our secular existence and to re-integrate the entire material Universe in the Spirit of Truth and Holiness” (Editorial of the first issue). Together with the promotion of inter-religious dialogue, the Journal of Dharma promotes critical and creative dialogue between the sacred and the secular with the conviction that they are inextricably intertwined and complementary in the forms of life. The present volume, Volume 47 in 2022 investigates the interface between Religion and Development. In tune with the focus of the Global Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Journal of Dharma invites scholars to share their fruits of research exploring the relationship between ‘Religion,’ the most ancient and ever new dimension of humanity, and ‘Development,’ the mantra of the industrialised and industrialising world and an essential feature of the secular today. People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships are presented as the Five Pillars of the 2030 Agenda for transforming our world. It is a call for all to live sustainably, individually and globally, keeping in mind the wisdom that our planet is on loan from our children, rather than a gift from our ancestors.
Though human beings are always involved in a quest for development, market-driven scientific and technological developments often work against the peace and prosperity of the people and planet. Even when we enjoy the fruits of science and technology, we are increasingly alarmed by their destructive power. States, corporations, and secular agencies evaluate development by measuring the GDP achieved through technological innovation, market reforms, and political power. Religions envision development that goes beyond economic development to that of integral and holistic development. They possess the capacity to critique the contemporary culture that is obsessed with material development, provide alternative stories for integral and holistic well-being, and bring peace and prosperity to the people and planet through partnerships.
The development slogan has to address the cry for inter- and intra-generational and inter-species justice. The secular humanist world was often merely a cover story for the technocratic market society and corporate world, which are driven by the lust for power and profit, which also result in increasing inequalities among the people and nations, and immense danger to many species for their very survival. The world that is currently characterized by the uncertainties and insecurities of globalization, as well as the fourth industrial revolution, needs to regain its human and social face and it is impossible without the support of religious traditions. A vast majority of people are religious believers and religions are important partners and agents in the Global Agenda to transform the world, bringing peace and prosperity to the people and the planet through partnerships. We need effective partnerships between development and religion “to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace” (The Earth Charter).
In a world of mass human migration and ever faster dissemination of ideas and images, no fact of human life is independent of either religious influence or development. Though these interactions are inevitable and often fruitful, at times they also generate serious conflicts and tensions. In a world of specializations, the saga of development often finds that the religious roots are irrelevant and sometimes harmful. However, it is also to be acknowledged that most human beings find religions important today even in the wake of scientific, technological, and economic development. However, along with the re-emergence of religion, believers are baffled by the uprising of fundamental divisive and narrow ideologies that subvert the global agenda for prosperity and peace for people and the planet. It is a fact that religion can cause, promote, oppose, or stand in the way of development. As Agenda 2030 also reminds everyone: “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty; just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet. The world will be a better place in 2030 if we succeed in our objectives” (50). And the achievement of SDGs is impossible without the active partnerships of various religions and faith traditions.
From a religious point of view, there are no facts of the secular that are not influenced by the sacred, and the sacred aspects of human life are influenced directly or indirectly by the secular fields of human life. At a time when the convictions of millions of believers do so much to shape the geopolitics and the survival of humanity on the planet, it is not wise to discount them as misguided delusions. Listening to great experiences and insights of religious traditions of humanity is a source of knowledge and to ignore it would be an unacceptable policing by academia, economics, and politics. Rejecting the fruits of science, technology, democracy, and globalization are also delusional. In continuing with its noble tradition of dialogue between the sacred and the secular, the Journal of Dharma invites scholars to submit research papers, that are prepared following the Author Guidelines, focussing on one or more SDGs. Selected papers will be conceptually grouped into the five pillars of SDG, the five Ps: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships.
47.1 Religion and Development for People (15 December 2021)
47.2 Religion and Development for Planet (15 March 2022)
47.3 Religion and Development for Prosperity (15 June 2022)
47.4 Religion and Development for Peace (15 August 2022)
(Last dates of submissions are given in the brackets)
Vol. 47.1 Religion and Development for People
In the Preamble of the SDG Agenda, we read: “We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.” People are the focus of the SDGs, especially in the first five goals (Poverty SDG 1, Zero Hunger SDG 2, Good Health and Well-being SDG 3, Quality Education SDG 4, and Gender Equality SDG 5), which concern directly with the fundamental needs and well-being of people. Global poverty is a very serious problem, interlinked with hunger, health, education, and gender equality. The poorest in the world are often hungry, sick, illiterate, and the women and children suffer and are discriminated against more. Making progress against poverty is a matter of prime importance for all. The sustainable development agenda is committed to leaving no one behind focussing “on the poorest, most vulnerable and those furthest behind.” Religions play significant roles in eradicating poverty, through the provision of basic human needs – food, water, health, and education. It is religious people who provide more than half of the educational facilities and a third of the medical facilities to people. Though often accused of human rights violations and discriminations against women, religions today contribute significantly towards the promotion of human rights and women empowerment. As Pope Francis observed, “we need to think of ourselves more and more as a single-family dwelling in a common home” (17).
Vol. 47.2 Religion and Development for Planet
Our planet and the diversity of life it supports is under serious duress because of present consumption-driven lifestyles and various economic development projects. The Global Agenda 2030 is a response to the cry of the earth, especially through the Goals – Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14), and Life on Land (SDG 15). These are aspirations and action plans to mitigate the effect of anthropogenic impact on the planet, support the needs of the present and the future generations, and keep People and the Planet alive and healthy. The cry of the earth results in the cry of the poor – human beings and other species who are unable to adapt to the fast-changing climate. We are in the unenviable position where we can destroy our planet quickly through our nuclear weapons and slowly through ever-increasing industrialisation processes. Focusing on the sustainability of the Planet, the Preamble of the Global Agenda says: “We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.” Sharing the sentiments of many religious believers and all those who care for people and planet, Pope Francis wrote in his Laudato Si – Care for the Common Home: “our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother. … This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” We cannot afford to leave the natural resources of the earth to those who have the technology to exploit them, and the money and the resources to purchase them. The unique position of the human species lies in the contested fact that only human beings contributed to climate change and the certain fact that only they are capable of bringing positive changes. It is also not just a matter of ‘can’ but also about responsibility. To this effect, only human beings can articulate an ethics of climate change and can undertake obligations to act accordingly.
Vol. 47.3 Religion and Development for Prosperity
Prosperity is the third pillar of the Agenda 2030 and we read in the Preamble: “We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social, and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.” The SDGs for Prosperity focus on different aspects of the economy: Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7); Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8); Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (SDG 9); Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10); Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). The price that we pay for prosperity, which is understood in terms of profit for the shareholders, is very high. Often, the opportunity cost of prosperity is the sacrifice of the common good and the essential needs of the common people. The principle of the common use of created goods is a religious principle that could guide sustainably ethical and social order. The development of individuals and sectoral interests that are detrimental to the common good is unethical and unsustainable. Development models that come at the cost of the well-being and happiness of most people today and that of future generations are not ethical. The notion of ‘each one for oneself’ will rapidly degenerate into a ‘freedom’ without ‘fraternity’, which is detrimental to the ethical demand of ‘equality.’ Prosperous societies with equal access to resources for all with the ideals of the economics of enough and ethics of care should be the mission of the world to establish an ethically tolerable and economically viable human existence. Academia and industry, market and media should join hands with the political and religious institutions to bring about ethical policies with action plans to construct and sustain prosperity and peace for the people and the planet.
Vol. 47.4 Religion and Development for Peace
The last two goals focussing on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Partnerships (SDGs 17 are critical to sustainable development. In the Preamble, we read on Peace: “We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” On Partnerships the Agenda declares in the Preamble: “We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.” Justice and peace are embedded in concurrence to the progress and sustainability of nations across the world under the leadership of the United Nations. The conflicts, insecurity, weak institutions, and limited access to justice by the poor and vulnerable people challenge the realisation of sustainable development goals. Unless the disempowered gets to engage in the formulation of development and participate in the gains of development, such a scheme would remain unethical though it may boast of economic development in terms of GDP and military power. The Journal of Dharma shares the vision proposed by Pope Francis in a Ted Talk: “how wonderful it would be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation could come with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, even as we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters who orbit around us.” The partnerships built upon inclusive and pluralistic ethical principles and values, shared vision and mission, that place people and planet at the centre of the projects for peace and prosperity is the need of the day. To walk towards sustainable development, we must accept the dignity of each person, and live accordingly, individually and collectively. Human beings are caretakers (homo custos) of not only the earth but also of all those who are living (people and other living species) in this common home, in collaboration and solidarity with all.
Pope Francis, Laudato Si – Care for the Common Home, 1-2 <http://www.vatican.va/ content/ francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html> 15 March 2021.
Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti: On the Fraternity and Social Friendship, Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2020.
Pope Francis, “Why the only Future Worth Building Includes Everyone,” TED Talks, 26 April 2017. Text in L’Osservatore Romano, 27 April 2017, 7. Quoted in FT 31.
United Nations. "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development." <https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda> 8 September 2021.