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Between September and December, the Soka movement in France held a series of interfaith conferences titled "The Economy in Question: The contributions of spiritual and religious perspectives," focusing on generating the kinds of human values needed to rebuild the economy, at a time when liberal economics is being widely criticized for its excesses.
The first conference was held at the Domaine Saint Joseph in Lyon on September 29. Some 125 people attended, and speakers included representatives from the Jewish, Islamic, Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist faiths. Christian Delorme, a well-known Catholic priest, welcomed Pope Francis' rejection of the idolatry of money. Other speakers stressed the tradition of giving in Islam and the Christian emphasis on sharing with the poor. In the afternoon, representatives of the different faiths who are actively engaged with the less fortunate in society spoke about their work.
On November 3, the second conference was held at the SGI European Training Center in Trets, with 220 participants and six speakers who focused on the experience of people facing economic difficulties and the kind of support and encouragement given to the practitioners of different religions at such times. The conference brought together Rabbi Nissim Sultan of Aix en Provence, the Reverend Christian Barbéry representing Protestantism, and Mohammed El Mahdi Krabch, imam of Avignon, as well as representatives of Catholicism and the SGI. Professor Philippe Langevin, an expert in economics from the University of Aix-Marseille, also participated, providing an overview of the current economic situation. This was the first time many of these individuals had met, and they agreed that they wish to continue this kind of dialogue.
On December 1, the third conference was held at the Soka Center in Paris, bringing together speakers including Tarik Bengarai, a researcher in law and Islamic Finance and spokesperson for the Independent Committee of Islamic Finance in Europe (ICIFE); Serge-Christophe Kolm, economist at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris and author of Happiness-freedom (Deep Buddhism and Modernity); and Edmond Lisle, president of the Fraternité d'Abraham. Laurent Vincenti, a Nichiren Buddhist who works as a consultant responsible for brand positioning, also spoke. The moderator was Paula Kasparian, philosopher and president of Artisans de Paix with a focus on interreligious affairs. related article Singapore Soka Association Youth Join Interfaith Harmony Tour "We may be diverse in terms of our beliefs, but we are united in making our communities better places," commented Elvin Low, a Singapore Soka Association (SSA) youth member, on what he learned through participating in the Tampines West Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) Harmony Tour 2014.
The fourth conference in "The Economy in Question" series will be held in Nantes early in 2014.
Between 2001 and 2011, the Soka movement in France held seven other interfaith conferences on a range of themes related to peace and dialogue.
[Adapted from a report from the Soka movement; photo courtesy of the Soka movement]
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