By Samreen Hooda and Shamez Babvani
Posted: 10/21/2015 5:12 pm EDT
Our democratic institutions are crumbling. The separation of Church and State has inevitably turned into a separation of morals from government, turning governments into skeletal bodies with little to no moral compass.
Many today believe faith, particularly Islam, is incompatible with democracy and that refugees cannot understand or contribute to democracies, yet the Athens Democracy Forum invited two keynote speakers to address the challenges and opportunities of government: a refugee and a Muslim.
Adrienne Clarkson, Hong Kong-born Canadian journalist, politician and stateswoman arrived in Canada as a three-year old refugee in 1942.
“Like all refugees,” she said, “I learned the nature of loss and the necessity for reinvention. By surviving you also gain the chance to begin, to be aware, to seek and welcome the new.”
“My family, mother, father, brother aged seven and I were given eight hours to prepare to leave under the aegis of the Red Cross to come to North America,” Clarkson said. “Out of that experience I gained the courage to continue, the need to survive, and the necessity to never look back….”
And indeed she never looked back, rising through the ranks to become Canada’s 26th honorable Governor General.
This is “the promise of democracy,” His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, said in his address, “that the people themselves best know how to achieve such progress. But if that promise is disappointed, then democracy is endangered.”
“I believe that the progress of democracy in our world is fundamentally linked to improving the quality of human life,” His Highness added. “A UNDP survey of South American publics some years ago demonstrated that most people preferred an effective authoritarian government to an ineffective democratic one. Quality of life was the prime concern.”
This message reverberated around the world these past few weeks. In his address to the Congress, Pope Francis, a son of immigrants himself, also touted that this is the “chief aim of all politics.”
“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good…”
In the last month, Pope Francis and the Aga Khan have shown not only that two historic and powerful religions fully agree on the purpose of government, but also that this ideal government is achievable.
One such example is the Charter of Medina, constituted by the Prophet Muhammad, which brought the tribes of Medina and their Jewish neighbors together under one democratic system, imploring them to work as one community rather than separate entities. It declared freedom in religious belief and assured that representatives of all parties, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, make any decisions that would affect the entire community together.
This charter gave rights to women, set into place a taxation system and a judicial process for dispute resolution. The early Muslim town of Medina was in fact a democracy, where people of different faiths lived, worked and learned together.
Discover, Explore and Learn more by reading the complete story at Huffington Post | Religion | Democracy, Faith and Refugees at the Athens Democracy Forum