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Higher Ground: Faith and Spirituality as Levers for Change

Oxford’s Fierce Compassion – Series of Student Insights to the Skoll World Forum 2016.

MBA Student Frank Fredericks gives his perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Higher Ground: Faith and Spirituality as Levers for Change’.

“Our biggest struggle isn’t of action, sildenafil but in action,” Father Czerny thoughtfully shared.  Among the rooms of social change agents, we gathered in the session “Higher Ground: Faith and Spirituality as Levers for Change” to explore how what we can achieve together.  Father Czerny captured the challenge…inaction is hurting us as much as the terrible acts of few.

I’ve been to countless panels on faith, spirituality, and interfaith dialogue.  Honestly, many of left me hungry for more, after a series of exclusively male religious leaders calling for peace, harmony, dialogue, understanding, tolerance, and other interfaith buzzwords.

That is why I found this conversation so rewarding.  Our gender-balanced panel included clergy and liety, activists and media minds.  But most importantly, it was illuminated by stories of engaging faith, from institutions to narratives, to making real, measurable change, tackling issues from public health to education.

For instance, Sakena Yacobi is a Afghan activist who has not only fought for women’s education and rights.  She has advocated for this change from an Islamic point of view.  Even when faced with threats of violence, dissenters become advocates once they hear her case for women’s literacy based on the Quran.

Molly Melching spoke of her work with Imam Muhammad Hussaini Bagnya in engaging community leaders, especially faith leaders, to begin deconstructing culture and religious traditions in the context of health practices.  The effect was profound.  Whole communities would, by their own motivation, commit to abandoning the practice of female genital cutting all across Senegal.  The reverberations of these transformational efforts are still continuing to ripple across the country and beyond.

At its core, the conversation was richly focused on faith’s role in progress, and not of conflict.  About how faith can inform work for positive social change.

Follow Frank: @frankiefreds