"Filling the Moral Vacuum" Conference
23rd to 26th May 2002
Held in the Great Hall at Saint Hill Castle

Summary

The conference subject was "Filling the Moral Vacuum." It launched a dialogue to address central social problems in society and the underlying causes. Drugs, criminality, educational failings often have a common denominator - a lack or loss of moral understanding by those involved.

The conference itself was organised by the Queen's Federation of Churches, New York; the Association for British Muslims; the European Human Rights Office of the Church of Scientology and the Foundation for Religious Tolerance.

The opening keynote speech was delivered by the President of World Congress of Faiths and Church of England minister, Rev Marcus Braybrooke. He outlined the general movement towards adopting a "global ethic".

The speakers, who represented most of the traditional world religions and a number of newer and minority religions, first discussed how their respective religions approached moral values, how society today had fallen away from these values and then started to look at ways in which solutions could be found to effectively address the social problems and reverse the downward trend. What was truly enlightening was that none of the speakers or participants was attempting to impose their religion or religious views on the others - but they were finding ways to creatively work together to improve social conditions.

Several conclusions came out of the conference, as agreed upon by many of the participants:

1. The momentum generated by the conference should be the start of a bigger movement to improve social conditions, with groups and individuals working together using whatever solutions and means were shown to be workable.

2. That moral and spiritual values, in whatever way these are expressed, are an important foundation for any society and these should be respected, upheld and used.

3. We should develop ways to foster positive religious and/or moral values at all levels of society. Co-operating together in different projects designed to deal with social problems was emphasised.

4. To this end, it was agreed that an executive committee should be created to start working out a series of different projects that would enable different groups to work together.

5. It is important to create an atmosphere of understanding, tolerance and respect for other people's cultures. When presenting our own system of values to others, we should be aware of the similarities and difference that lie between them.

6. We should organise various cultural and social events where communities can get together and get to know each other.

7. Moral values must be practised and not just discussed theoretically. Leaders must set a good example.

8. The needs of the minority communities must be kept in mind in all policy making, but minority communities should also organise themselves and take the initiative for this to happen too.

9. The family is a vital building block of society and ways in which to communicate values at the level that children and youth can understand and appreciate need to be developed.

10. A number of community events and projects were already suggested to facilitate different communities participating in other communities' activities.

11. A statement, "A call to reverse a dangerous trend" was drafted during the conference and many participants signed this, pledging their commitment to making a difference and calling upon others to do likewise.

The conference was not without its own cultural and social events either. On the Saturday evening a dinner was held along with a concert. The performers were all from different religious backgrounds and ranged from a Gospel choir to a rock group, oriental dancers to ballet, a tabla player, a pianist and even a magician. The concert, which was opened by the Mayor of East Grinstead, Councillor Edward Matthews, was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

On the Sunday morning an interfaith service took place with a Minister from the Church of Scientology introducing the various religious representatives. The gathering of around 400 people was treated to a richly diverse service, with a Buddhist monk, a Jain, a Zoroastrian, Sikhs, a Catholic, an Evangelical pastor, Muslim Imams, a Jew, an Anglican, a Hindu and a Pentecostal all taking part.

There were of course many more details, explanations, discussions and ideas that are not included in this summary. However, this short overview is intended to give an idea of the constructive time had by all participants and meant to serve as a guiding light for future co-operation and work.

Another conference is planned for Spring 2004 - at which will be discussed the progress made by then in improving the moral climate and inroads made on social problems, along with lessons learned and further constructive ideas for the future.

One of the underlying themes enthusiastically embraced by all participants was the need to "do something" - not just talk about it!!

Anyone is welcome to join this movement. The executive committee is currently being formed and if you feel you can contribute to this then please feel free to contact the organisers, by writing to info@fillingthemoralvacuum.org or:

"Filling the Moral Vacuum United Kingdom"
Suite 3, 31a High Street,
East Grinstead,
West Sussex
RH19 3AF
England


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