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Global Politics and Global Religion in the 21st century

01/06/2012, Rome

In the 21st century, religions have gained a new role in the world. They are facing a ‘delocalization’ process in the wake of globalization, spreading from countries in which they began. These are some ideas discussed during ‘Global politics and global religion in 21st century’, a seminar held at IAI by Professor Scott Thomas from Bath University in England and visiting fellow at Luiss Guido Carli University in Italy. In his opinion, religion is spreading throughout the world, in particular to countries characterized by high economic growth, like ‘BRICS’, bringing a new understanding to its role.

Nowadays, religion is more urban and less rural, and therefore becoming even more disconnected from local culture and ready to fit in a global perspective. The religious world is growing at a demographic level, too. European believers have increased because of Muslim and Christian migrations—the latter coming from the southern part of the world (Latin America, Africa, Philippines), where Christianity found new energy. Also, urbanization and megalopolis affect religion’s evolution. This is easing the aggregation of believers’ communities.

Then, Professor Thomas focused on Christianity, another pinnacle of religious world questions. It is often considered of European origin, even if it comes from the Middle East. However, beginning in the first centuries, Christianity has spread to India and China. So, it’s possible to talk about a global Christianity, a religion that has moved away from its occidental roots to catch onto other cultures. European Christian movements are trying to connect themselves to those of the rest of the world, while relations between religious and political globalization are based on Bible interpretations, which are often politicized.

Brazil, India, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal are just some of the countries where Christianity is establishing itself with strength, wielding culture and policy for those states. Professor Thomas predicts similar evolutions for China, where the phenomenon is already sizeable, as well as for other Far Eastern countries.

In Uganda and Nigeria, Sharia is the basis of sociopolitical life for Muslims. But in these countries, there are also some Christians that look at the Bible as though it is a sacred law. Cesare Merlini, president of IAI Guarantors Committee, notices, as commented about in Professor Thomas’ analysis, that religions are reaction and opposition factors, so much so that they spark a post-secular era controversy.

As for religion’s role in the Islamic Arab Spring, Thomas considers that there has been an impact, but not in terms in which we usually think about it. In essence, religion was not the driving force behind the northern African rebellions.