Some of us remember, and most of us have at least heard, about the social revolution of the 1960’s, and the paradigm shift that this revolution brought about. The way we dressed, the music we listened to, the way we related to each other, every aspect of life was affected by people’s reaction to traditional social behaviours and their desire for greater individual freedom.
Fifty years have passed and perhaps we are, again, in the midst of a paradigm shift. The information to which we have access, the global economy, the freedom of movement, growing secularism and increasing extremism, are affecting the way in which we relate to each other, both as individuals and as collectives. It is our responsibility, at both of these levels, to define what kind of a society we would like to see grow out of these changes. We need to take a moment to examine afresh these fundamental developments and to ask ourselves some questions: what kind of a society do we want to help build? What are the civic virtues that are required to form such a society?
Acknowledging that civic virtues are the basis of our social development entails a notion of civic engagement founded not on ideologies or limited agendas but on a desire to connect with one another in a genuine and principled manner. Perhaps one of the aspects of our current paradigm shift is the recognition that although individual freedoms are important, our belonging to associations and cultural groups can also inform our understanding of virtues.
The 1960’s were the venue for the Second Vatican Council, a space that shaped the way in which Roman Catholics, and Christians in general, understand their interaction with the world at large. One of this council’s best-known documents, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate, encouraged Christians to look outwards and engage in meaningful and productive dialogue with other faiths.
The conference The Global Village: Our Responsibility to Engage (R2E) is celebrating this revolutionary document by extending the challenge of connection and engagement to us all: it provides an opportunity for us to work together to define what kind of a society we want to develop. The organizing committee of R2E has tried to create a conference that presents the concept of engagement both as a principle and as a process.
We hope that by attending the conference or by reading the information on this blog you will come away with a greater understanding of the need to create honest and courageous dialogue about the practical issues facing all of us; a dialogue grounded in a profound understanding of and respect for civic virtues and engagement within and between communities of all kinds.