News Release

G20 Interfaith Summit Attendees Discuss Economic Development and Religious Freedom

Over a hundred academic, faith and governmental leaders from around the world explored the connections between economic development and religious freedom in late 2014 at the G20 Interfaith Summit on Australia’s Gold Coast.

The summit was organised by the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue (CIDC) at Griffith University.  It was co-sponsored by the Queensland Government, United Arab Emirates Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development, and the International Centre of Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University (BYU).

Other sponsors and partners included IBAQ, Seekers Hub Global, Ma'din Academy, Adelaide University, Queensland Churches Together, Queensland Jewish Interfaith, the Australian Baha’i Community, and Queensland Intercultural Society.

The event was created by Dr Brian Adams, the head of Griffith University’s CIDC, and came to fruition after years of planning.  It is intended that the event be held at the same time as the political G-20 event held annually and attended by the heads of the G-20 nations. This enables subjects such as religious freedom to become an important part of the discourse in world affairs alongside the financial, social and governmental issues addressed at the G20 political summit. 

Professor Neville Rochow, who is a barrister with a special interest in law and religion and holds adjunct professorships at Notre Dame and Adelaide Law Schools, was particularly complimentary of the summit. “I have not seen an event quite like this in Australia, drawing upon the expertise of so many disciplines,” he said.

“Religion is the one social construct in which economics, sociology, law, philosophy, theology, history and politics all intersect,” said Mr Rochow, who has a voluntary role as the manager of the Church's interfaith relations efforts in Australia. “The interfaith summit was a rare event to recognise and demonstrate this intersection. It brought together experts from each of these fields to make such relevant and timely presentations.”

Mr Rochow said that the quality of discourse, in and out of sessions, was first class. He indicated that full credit must go to Dr Brian Adams and Professor Cole Durham for having conceived of and for giving support to such an outstanding event as a follow-on from the G20 (political) Summit. 

Professor Durham is the head of BYU’s International Centre of Law and Religion studies and is heavily involved in co-sponsoring similar events around the world.  Because of his professional expertise he has advised emerging nations in establishing constitutional protections for religious freedom.

“In our increasingly secular society,” said Mr Rochow, “what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of the great suite of freedoms: those of association and of conscience, religious belief and expression.  Those freedoms define us as a civil society.  Any threat to one is a threat to all.

“Unfortunately, society now needs to hear justifications for them when previously they had been accepted without explanation.”

Elder Gifford Nielsen, a member of the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the event was “a refreshing setting for academic, governmental and religious leaders from all over the world.

“It is apparent from the growing body of research that nations and communities that value and foster religious freedom also enjoy stronger local and national economies.

“The interchange of ideas and the mixing of cultures and religious beliefs was extraordinary,” he said.  “It certainly is the beginning of something very special.

“As Latter-day Saints we follow Jesus Christ and events like this help us to find new ways to strengthen individuals, families and communities.”

David Moore, a Church attendee of the event and former bank president said, “Living in a world where religious liberties are being threatened substantially, the summit helped examine the link between religious freedom and economic development at local, national and international levels.

‘This was one of the most significant events featuring the academic study of religion and its role in society in Australia.  Many positive relationships were developed between scholars, lawyers, political, faith and interfaith leaders from around the world to discuss this important topic.”

The second G20 Interfaith Summit will be held in Turkey in 2015.

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