William Heath offers a Quaker perspective on a multi-faith meeting
ARC, the Bath-based multi-faith sustainability charity, has secured agreement from world faith representatives at a pivotal meeting in New York to form an alliance for faith-consistent investment. Meeting at UN headquarters at the invitation of the UN Development Programme, ARC’s secretary general Martin Palmer steered the diverse group of powerful faith representatives to a series of important conclusions and commitments designed to shift the considerable weight of global faith funds towards the ambitious ethical and sustainable ends embodied by the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Delegates for the ARC Faith in Finance planning meeting gather outside the United Nations building in New York.
The aim is a profoundly serious one, seeking to bring the faiths together at a time of political delinquency in a global effort to respond to the existential environment crisis. Each session started with a reflection from a different faith tradition: Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Hindu. Business was conducted throughout the day with affection and almost constant laughter between the faiths. UN staff said they’d never seen a meeting get so much done so fast.
Everything said at any UN meeting is recorded for posterity; UN staff members supporting the conference said they’d never seen a meeting get so much done so fast.
Faced with the challenge of drafting and presenting the meeting’s conclusions I offered the group a brief outline of the Quaker business method, and how clerks ask whether a draft minute is acceptable. The heartening result was a chorus of Baptist, Jewish, Vatican. other-faith and secular voices chiming “hope so!” in near-unison as we brought an intense day’s work to a series of conclusions. One moment of possible dissent was eased by the group’s acceptance of the insight described in QFP 3.07:
There have been many occasions in our Society when a Friend, though maintaining her or his personal convictions, has seen clearly that they were not in harmony with the sense of the meeting and has with loyal grace expressed deference to it. Out of just such a situation, after time for further reflection, an understanding of the Friend’s insight has been reached at a later date and has been ultimately accepted by the Society.
Job done. And was the output acceptable? “Hope so!”