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[Image] Francis Davis

Spiritual Progression in Economic Recession? Session 2: Think pieces and first plenary

17 March 11

the Centre for Faiths and Public Policy, University of Chester, 17th March 2011

The Big Society evolving

Listen or download the podcast of the address and view the visual presentation which accompanied the address here.

Francis Davis has been an advisor to government, both the last Labour administration and the present Coalition, on faith and society. He began by stressing the need for clarity in terminology regarding faith, religion and spirituality, and staying abreast of where government is getting its ideas from with regard to changing society. Today’s ideas are derived from business management, economics and behavioural theory.

What is being proposed is to return various rights and duties from bureaucracies to the public sphere. One can either complain, or respond positively. New and very practical ways forward are being discussed for collaboration and innovation in this changed set of relationships between state and public. Already nine of London’s faith organisations have joined up to create a Social Finance Bond of £250k. The Localism Bill will open up opportunities right across the country.

Spirituality – a Muslim perspective

Listen or download the podcast of the address here.

Musharraf Hussain is an imam, and Chief Executive of the Karimia Institute in Nottingham. He spoke of the transforming effect of spirituality, and looked to “spiritual intelligence” as a way of alleviating the negative effects of economic downturn. God-consciousness should lead to becoming godly and God-like. Modern society concentrates on the outward, whereas spirituality is about what is inner. Islam offers a prescriptive approach to the path of developing one’s inner life and relationship with God.

“I believe spirituality is a great intelligence, it’s a great power and energy which moves people, which really moves people to be morally virtuous and good … and then they become good citizens.”

The spiritual world is attached to the material world, which can complicate our understanding of why we are here. But ideally our connection to God should transform for the good our relationship with the material world around us. The opposites of the good life are anxiety, impatience and miserliness. Since the consequences of economic downturn are spiritual, the remedy also is spiritual. “Man needs God,” as Kant has said. On this foundation, said Imam Hussain, he had seen many members of his Nottingham community play a most positive role in charitable action in society.

Dances of Universal Peace

Listen or download the podcast of the address here.

Website: www.dancesofuniversalpeace.org.uk

Mary Rabia Dawson is a Sufi, which she describes as a non-denominational form of religion, and is a teacher of dance within the organisation Dances of Universal Peace. She describes participation in the dances, which have healing and meditative qualities. The dances themselves derive from Sufi tradition, which provide a tested foundation, even if dancers themselves are not aware of those roots.

“… the Dances are a powerful tool for healing and have the potential to change our view of the world and our place in it."

In a period of economic downturn she says the dances offer a sense of peace, harmony, and belonging. In the face of circumstances and change over which we sense we have no control, the dances offer a space for being calm and a sense of being connected. Hardship in itself can lead either to a sense of solidarity or of everyone being for themselves. The growth of social media indicates a craving for personal connection such as the dances offer.

Questions and comments

Listen or download the podcast of the plenary session here.

Following the “Think Pieces” above, conference participants offered their comments and questioned the speakers.

Report and podcasts compiled by Norman Winter. Recordings of the conference sessions are substantially complete, but may have been edited in small ways for technical and other reasons.

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