Rev. Robert Chase, Executive Director of Intersections International, was the only Protestant minister of the six U.S. delegates to the Fourth Triennial Congress in Astana, Kazakhstan last week. The event brought together representatives of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and adherents of Hinduism, Shintoism and Zoroastrianism. Over 350 delegates from 40 countries attended the Congress to discuss the world’s pressing religious and social issues, and to pursue “tolerance, peace and harmony,” according to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbyev. Other U.S. delegates included Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative, Father Leonid Kishkovsky of the Orthodox Church of America, Mr. Bill Vendley of Religions for Peace, Daisy Khan of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, and Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee.
Two key themes discussed at the 2012 forum were a direct result of Intersections’ recommendations after participation in 2009: elevating the role of women in religion and encouraging greater participation among youth. Rev. Chase spoke on “Youth, Religion & Technology.”
“We can’t just talk about our youth, we must talk among them and we must speak the language common to their world: a virtual language built on images instead of words, spoken in digital dialects that easily cross traditional tongues, religions, race, gender, culture and national border,” stated Rev. Chase in his remarks. “Many of us here are referred to as a “people of the Book,” but our young people increasingly speak and learn in pictures. How do we reconcile this difference?”
Rev. Chase commended the organizers of the conference for its focus on the involvement of youth. “Along with the concerns of women and the opportunities presented by multiculturalism, these topics offer potential vehicles for the transformative, peace-filled change we all seek.” He encouraged increased recruiting of young people to attend the next Congress, both physically and virtually: “Imagine if we spoke in real time to a young person in Tahrir Square or someone living in the midst of interreligious strafe in Nigeria or someone from Occupy Wall Street in the US, advocating for economic justice, and wondering what we have to say about it. … We must acknowledge that new technology has impacted every cultural and religious group on the planet.” Rev. Chase concluded by reminding the Congress that technology is a value-neutral tool. “We need to find ways to apply it to reach young people on behalf of the eternal, ethical, life-affirming values we all cherish.”