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    34th World Congress: “Challenges for Religious Freedom in the digital age”

    The Congress will be held at University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, on 24-27 August 2014. Historically this will be the seventh congress to be held in the United Kingdom:

    1978     Oxford    The Limits of Toleration Today
    1966     London   The Spiritual Challenge of Mankind Today and Our Response
    1955     Belfast    Liberal Religion in an Age of Anxiety
    1952     Oxford    Authority and Freedom in the Modern World
    1937     Oxford    Liberal Christianity: The World’s Need
    1901     London   Liberal Religious Thought at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century

    This time we will consider how the last quarter-century’s paradigm-shifting leap in communicative power has shaped the encounter of beliefs, and might inform the ways in which it continues.
    Contributors will address the advantages that have accrued for the struggle for freedom of belief, as well as the challenges that have arisen for it, from the output of the digital technologies that have revolutionized communication, relationships and identity in recent decades.

    Draft Program:

    IARF 34th World Congress – Program schematic (PDF 2 pages);IARF 34th Congress Program schematic (PDF one page) – Alternative showing Japanese translation availability

    Speakers

    We will have a total of 11 sessions over 2 full days and one half-day, featuring 39 presenters.
    IARF Congress 2014 – Speaker List (PDF 3 pages)

    At the Opening Ceremony on Sunday 24 August 2014, Karen Armstrong will deliver the keynote address titled “Religious Problems and Imperatives of Our Age”.

    Our three plenaries over three days will address the following topics:

    • “The coming-online faith world” (Human Rights Defence in the Developing World)
    • “How (not) to Liberate the World” (‘Digital Utopianism’)
    • “Educational potential of religious narrative animation” (How can animators help teachers?)

    One of the second plenary addresses will be given by His Grace Bishop AngaelosGeneral Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom

    Karen Armstrong

    Naamloos-1

    Bishop Angelos

    Circle Groups

    Over two days, this long-standing IARF tradition will allow you to meet one another in encounter groups of 10 or fewer, chosen to balance gender, age and faith identity. These encounters begin with self-introductions followed by discussion of your respective faith orientations, and issues around interfaith relations – as well as some conversation on the theme of the event and how it relates to your personal and group lived faith. Here you can read about Evening Visits and Post-Congress seminar, Belfast

    The Venue

    Here you will find directions to the venue (Birmingham University) from London Heathrow.

    The City

    Britain’s second metropolis, diversity-rich Birmingham is notable as one of the nation’s most active sites of interfaith encounter, owing to a successful civic integration of multi-faith immigrant communities over several centuries.
    A sample of its many places of worship is here.  And of its heritage (includes Tolkien!), here. For aerial views, to a pumping soundtrack, here. On religion in Birmingham today, see here (Wikipedia).
    The city has a rich history of indigenous British religious nonconformity. For a look into the deeper detail, please go here. This history includes the figure of the great Dissenting polymath Joseph Priestley, who helped found Unitarianism in England. Much of the Industrial Revolution can be claimed as the legacy of Birmingham, the original ‘Workshop of the World’ – the “City of a thousand trades”. So the fine municipal museum innovatively displays that extraordinary history, and there is an art gallery of international significance, its collections including important Buddhist sculpture (the Sultanganj Buddha), tremendous Pre-Raphaelite holdings, and an impressive Japanese collection including ukiyo-e and netsuke.

    Congress host committee chair Shaykh Amin-Evans with Cardinal Tauran, Chair of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, at the Archbishop of Birmingham’s house

    Congress host committee chair Shaykh Amin-Evans with Cardinal Tauran, Chair of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, at the Archbishop of Birmingham’s house

    Birmingham has other visitor attractions aplenty (see here), and nearby is Shakespeare’s home town, Stratford-on-Avon.

    The University of Birmingham

    We will gather at the university’s main Edgbaston campus (see under ‘Campuses’).
    Your RECOMMENDED ACCOMMODATION is handled by the university’s VenueBirmingham – see their FAQ for their offer.
    Here is their Flickr photo set showing the facilities. This link shows the University of Birmingham’s economy on-campus accommodation offered through VenueBirmingham: bit.ly/1hBsBk8 But if you prefer a hotel nearby the university campus, please go to this page.

    If you have Spotify, listen to a classic track from one of Birmingham’s great bands, UB40.
    The lyric reminds us of the ongoing persecution around our world,
    much of it in the name of belief.In preparing to meet, let us remember the mostly nameless & unnumbered
    who suffer because freedom of belief is still so widely denied.
    “Silent Witness” song lyric:
    The neon haze of city lights
    The tribal sound of marching feet
    Cuts through the gloom on cold dark nights
    The tired and homeless roam the streets
    The sirens wail, engines roar
    A shadowed man just glances around
    A victim of life’s mindless toil
    Lies cold and helpless on the ground
    The window dummies’ silent stare
    Bears witness on the night
    If they could move, what it would prove
    To see them all take flight
    The neon haze of city lights
    The tribal sound of marching feet
    Cuts through the gloom on cold dark nights
    The tired and homeless roam the streets
    The walls shout loud with angry words
    The people air their views
    The poor can scream but no-one hears
    The concrete jungle sings the blues
    The window dummies’ silent stare
    Bears witness on the night
    If they could move, what it would prove
    To see them all take flight
    ….

     


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