Source: Mercury News
Pope, Dalai Lama show role of faith in changing societies
By Eric O. Hanson
Article Launched: 04/18/2008 01:32:01 AM PDT
For 10 days the United States has become the religious-political capital of the world, hosting visits by the Dalai Lama in Seattle and Pope Benedict XVI at the White House and the United Nations.
We don't often focus on America's religious role in globalization amid all our military and commercial links. The current rise of religiously significant countries like China, India and Brazil influences both the rapid pace and the multipolar direction of world trade, diplomacy and cultural interaction.
The Dalai Lama and the pope came to America first and foremost as spiritual leaders. The Dalai Lama came to Seattle for a five-day conference on compassion, but by the third day, global diplomacy forced him to comment further on Tibet. Chinese governments, both Confucian and communist, have always sought to penetrate, regulate and control all religious institutions, so there are no good choices for leaders who seek religious and cultural autonomy like the Dalai Lama. China's global rise, however, is going to require the Communist Party to make some adjustments to international norms.
What else do the visits of the Dalai Lama and the pope highlight about the role of religion in the global political system? Whether the religious believer focuses on the "compassion" advocated by the Dalai Lama or "love" and "hope," the subjects of Benedict's two encyclicals, it takes almost willful blindness not to notice that people living in the developing world, especially "the bottom billion," suffer disproportionately, whether it be from civil wars, environmental degradation, or the global food crisis. Global religious leaders, at their best, focus our attention on such issues and call on the citizens of all countries and the believers of all religions to do something about these conditions.