(Photo courtesy of the NOAA.)
Seven billion. That’s the number that our population will hit at some point this year. And afterward, it will continue to grow. That’s seven billion lives, seven billion stories, and seven billion beliefs about the world in which we will all inhabit. With rapid communication and fast travel, our world has already grown smaller, just as the population has ballooned larger. Apart from being an ecological concern for the population-at-large, this expansion of the world’s citizens carries quite a bit of significance specifically for the interfaith community. What do we do as the world becomes more crowded, when differing opinions and ideologies come closer and closer to one another than ever before? What do we do when clashing viewpoints meet in the public spheres of our society–not just the physical ones, but also the electronic spaces frequented by an ever-expanding percent of the global populace?
This is where interfaith cooperation becomes crucial. Sociological pluralism of the sort we advocate at FLP (and that you will find outlined in our pages above) will become a social necessity if humanity is to live and work and grow together as we move into the future. Why not get a head start? Greg and I have outlined a few reasons why we think interfaith work worthwhile– from our call as Christians to live as ambassadors of Christ, to the simple practical benefits of service– and this one perhaps encompasses them all.
As a prominent faith community– the Christian community– we should begin considering these challenges that the future poses. The population increase, expected by some sources to reach nearly ten billion by 2050, will bring with it a host of new issues, many of them ecological. We will have to be better stewards of our resources, and we will have to look to our moral rubrics for guidance. In our case, that means turning to Scripture and discussing what Christ’s example can teach us about a Christian ethic on an enormous (and enormously diverse) planet. We will have to decide what the church looks like in a dynamic world.
To solve these issues and truly progress into a better age than those that came before, we cannot continue to fight and oppose one another. Dissidence breeds only more problems. In his last entry, Greg talked about the incredible outpouring of support surrounding UIUC’s “Million Meals for Haiti” event, which saw people from every walk of life come together to solve a problem, to right a wrong and better the world in which we live. To flourish, we will need more of these events. I believe that acts of service like this must become normal rather than exceptional for us to powerfully transform our world.
We have the ability to write the story of our future; we can choose to promote peace or allow violence. It’s up to us. Interfaith cooperation provides an opportunity to forge strong relationships with those different from you. If enough people did this, then the bonds of the global community would be much stronger than they are now. Perhaps things like “Million Meals” could seem commonplace. From within our Christian identity we can pull together to make this seven billion strong–seven billion united in our differences–instead of seven billion reasons to disagree. So what do you think the world will look like? How will the Christian community respond to the issues faced in this growing world, and what are some ways to join people of different beliefs and traditions together to address them?
As an aside, here’s an excellent video put together by National Geographic as part of their series “Seven Billion”:7 Billion, National Geographic Magazine