Faith: The Journal of the International League of Religious Socialists

Autumn 2004 Edition (HTML Version)

Previous Editions
Broderskap Celebrates 75 Years
Pär-Axel Sahlberg Meets with Religious Leftists in Brazil
British Muslims and Jews Unite to Build Understanding
Ukrainian Activists Form Religious Left Group

Broderskap Celebrates 75 Years

One of our oldest and strongest organisations in the ILRS celebrated its 75th year in August. Starting from humble beginnings, Sweden's Broderskap movement today enjoys the membership of members of parliament, trade union leaders, and prime minister Göran Persson as well as many members of the Social Democratic Party. The setting for this joyous event was Bommersvik, the legendary meeting place of the Swedish social democratic movement.

Over 300 delegates from all over Sweden attended the celebration, which inbetween the singing of socialist songs accompanied by the music of a brass band, featured comments from Wanja Lundby Wedin, leader of the Swedish trade union organisation LO, and Broderskap President Anna Berger Kettner. Wedin spoke not only of the important contribution made by Broderskap to municipal politics, but also of the close relationship between Broderskap and the LO (trade union movement) for many years, and their work together which has helped and continues to help raise the issue of social solidarity.

The afternoon began with three seminars on issues of concern to the organisation; globalisation, the relation between faith and politics, and the question on crime and punishment in Sweden. The globalisation seminar was led by World Council of Churches head Peter Weiderud, and featured the comments of International Development Minister Carin Jämtin and journalist Sverker Lindström on the problems of shaping globalisation to meet the needs of all of the world's people, not just a few of us in the North.

Closing out the day was a dinner featuring the congratulations and good wishes from past leaders of Broderskap, including former ILRS President (and for many years Broderskap president) Evert Svensson, as well as from ILRS Secretary General Andrew Hammer, Tapio Lampinen, the president of the Finnish religious socialists, and Jan-Rudy Kristensen, the president of the Norwegian relgious socialists. ILRS President Pär-Axel Sahlberg was in Brazil (see next article) attending a conference of the Latin American Council of Churches.

Pär-Axel Sahlberg Meets with Religious Leftists in Brazil

ILRS President Pär-Axel Sahlberg recently attended a meeting of the Latin American Council of Churches in São Paulo, Brazil, on the topic of 'regional structures, free trade and its relation to human dignity'. During his time there, he was able to meet with religious socialists in various Latin American parties, including Brazil's PT. His address to the meeting follows.

My own church's father John Wesley said 'the Whole World is My Parish.' That is my view, but I’m also aware of my lack of knowledge of that world, and therefore I'm very glad to be able to take part in this conference, to share my European view and listen to the Latin American debate.

Since 1994 I have been a member of the Swedish Parliament and the Standing Committee on the Swedish Constitution but also part of the time in the Committee on European Affairs and the Committee for Foreign Affairs. I’m still in good standing with my church, as an ordained pastor in the Methodist Church in Sweden.

Beyond my work in the parliament I’m also chairing the ILRS, The International League of Religious Socialists, which is an associated member to the Socialist International. We have our members mostly in Europe, but we have also the Committee on Religious Affairs within ANC in South Africa and Frente Nacional de Cultos in the Dominican Republic, to mention some others. In all the member organisations in ILRS we are involved in developing the ministry and the thinking of a meeting point of religion and politics. Among other things we are just now working on a programme on globalisation and on interfaith subjects.

Since some months I’m also chairing the board for the ecumenical church planted Life & Peace Institute in Uppsala, Sweden. I have a wife and two grown children, and two grandchildren who all are my great joy!

In our modern time all good forces in society must catch up with the globalisation, to use it and to control it. Today the market, the capitalistic forces and the criminal are using it fully, but democracy and the churches are far behind. That is sad because the people of the world, we the citizens of the world, need to be in charge of our own world. The creation requires it and the churches should not be limited by national boundaries. We are, together with other good faiths, careholders of the world – the world of God and all God’s children.

Click here to read more (downloads Acrobat PDF file).

British Jews and Muslims Unite to Build Understanding

At the recent British Labour Party Conference in Brighton, ILRS Secretary General Andrew Hammer had an opportunity to meet with our comrades in the Christian Socialist Movement, including ILRS Vice President and newly elected CSM Chair Bev Thomas. Along with the events sponsored by CSM throughout that week, Andrew, Bev, and other CSM comrades also had a chance to attend meetings held by socialists of other religious faiths. One of the more interesting ones was a meeting of a new group of Muslims and Jews who are working to overcome mutual prejudices and the discrimination that both groups experience.

Alif-Aleph UK was founded only a few months ago, with an ambitious aim that is both necessary and courageous. Taking their name from the first letters of the Arabic and Hebrew alphabets, the organisation was founded by British Jews and Muslims, in order to build real relationships between the two communities in their country. Using some ideas that are quite similar to those laid out in the ILRS Hand to Hand project, the organisation seeks to find common points of agreement between the two faith communities and beyond, and then seeks to find methods of action that will help build a concrete and practical understanding and respect for one another. Some of those actions include studying religious texts together, visiting sites of joint historic interest to both groups, and visits to each others houses of worship.

The two personalities overseeing this project are Richard Stone, President of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, and a former chair of the Runnymede Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, and Maqsood Ahmad, Strategic Director of Diversity Confidence, and Communications for the National Probation Service. In the manifesto they have put together for Alif-Aleph, they state that:

We find ourselves living side by side in a country where we are both minorities, and both significant contributors to society. This provides new opportunities for us to draw on our positive histories together to contribute to social cohesion in Britain.

We have a common experience of having to address hostiilities that derive from mistaken stereotypes of our religions and our cultures, leading to Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The reality that confounds these mistaken stereotypes is that our religions have more in common with each other than with other religions.

We anticipate that this manifesto can be adapted as a responsible basis of a later Manifesto not just for British Muslims and British Jews, but also inclusive of all communities and individuals who live in the UK.

A most worthwhile goal, similar to our own, and we were pleased to find that not only did this group come into being on its own, but that they were happy to welcome CSM to join in their future work as well.

Ukrainian Activists Form Religious Left Group

We have received word of a recently formed group of religious leftists in the Ukraine, not affiliated with any of the existing social democratic forces in the country. A small group of 135 members in 11 regions of the Ukraine has been organised now for over a year, with regular meetings in their communities and good relations with independent trade unions and other social organisations. The group has plans for collaboration on projects with other religious groups from throughout the country, and we will keep yo uinformed on their progress and further development.

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