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Faith in the Future

A reflection from FaithInvest's Founder and CEO

Martin Palmer

I have chosen a deliberately ambiguous title for this note, which will also appear in our first newsletter of this new year.

Can we have faith in the future, and what will be the nature of faith in the future?

Addressing the first of these two, I was very struck by a line I heard coming from the Global Joy Summit, held in parallel with COP 27 in November last year. In a world where doom has always been the more exciting narrative - stories about Hell are far more popular in religious literature than stories about Heaven! – the very idea of a Global Joy Summit might seem like blasphemy to some.

Yet without a celebration of the wonders and wonderfulness of life on earth, our lives and the lives of all of the rest of creation, nature - call it what you will – the question would be 'why bother'? So taking the notion of a Global Joy Summit as essentially a good thing, this line from the event is for me a real challenge in terms of how to think about the future.

The quote is “Perhaps the best is yet to come!”

If we try and live with that notion, then the issues about the future are not just about addressing the crises but about having a vision of what could be rather than just what has to be prevented. If we are just firefighters, who will be the builders of the replacement of that which has been lost in the fire?

Higher and greater purpose

Faiths are, at heart, optimistic about the potential for human activity to accord to a higher and greater purpose. The problem is that the wear and tear of everyday life can mean this deeper sense of the wonder of life on earth and the consequential responsibility to ensure its survival and flourishing can get lost.

The second sense is the question of what will the faiths actually do to ensure there is a future? I have watched over the years the increasing presence and significance of the faiths at major events such as COPs on climate change and COPS on biodiversity as well. This is good but can absorb massive amounts of time at events designed to keep the system going rather than challenge the assumptions that this system is worth keeping going!

Beliefs, teachings and values

So I am delighted that a major new dimension of Faithinvest’s work will be our Beliefs, Teachings and Values (BTV) programme linked to the Multi-Faith Just Transition Fund (MJTF).

Through these programmes we are working with key leaders in major faiths to explore alternative models – for use in the 'toolkit' of economics – that exist but which have been sidelined, ignored or in some cases even attacked as alternatives to consumerist capitalism. This builds on work our predecessor the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) undertook in the 1990’s with the World Bank.

In a world where we increasingly celebrate and recognise the role of diversity, the diversity of economic models, which the faiths have, could be one of the most important rediscoveries possible.

Watch this space and Happy New Year.


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