Simultaneously this December two major international conferences are taking place. One The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference where the world's political leaders meet focusing on our external environment and the serious challenges posed by global warming.
The other occurring on Indonesia's doorstep sees Melbourne hosting 8000 people at a meeting of the Parliament of World Religions with a focus on man's inner environment in the face of humanities multiple challenges in an increasingly interdependent world.
That these two events take place at the same time may seem a coincidence but the link between spirit and soul and the environment or atmosphere has always been acknowledged.
The holy books, prophets, great art and plain common sense are all evidence of this connection. While the last 400 years has seen this link somewhat blurred by elements of science and its focus on the mind and materialism, this like climate, is changing.
Simply using the lens of etymology we see most of the established languages attesting to the earlier strength of the link.
Greek, Latin, Hebrew and others had similar words for spirit and breath, soul and air. Closer to home Sanskrit which had a role in the development of Bahasa Indonesia had a word *Atman' which is the root for the English word atmosphere.
The word *Atman' has multiple meanings, air, breath and soul.
I have no doubt that among the hundreds of indigenous languages of Indonesia this same connection can be found. The parallel exists in many of the Native American Indian languages.
The Copenhagen conference has received much attention in the Indonesian media, rightly so as Indonesia is home to one of the world's critical lungs, the threatened tropical rainforests.
The Parliament of World Religions (PWR) on the other hand has been conspicuously absent from news reporting in Indonesia, despite the fact that Indonesia has a multi-faith constitution and the world's largest Muslim population.
Although certain to have some Indonesia representation its unlikely that many will attend.
The PWR is the world's largest inter-faith gathering held only once in every five years. The parliament, open to all will consist of many of the world's religious, spiritual and indigenous leaders together with men and women of all ages from around the world.
Their aim is to cultivate harmony amongst the world's religious and spiritual communities. The week long gathering commencing on the 3rd of December will feature 500 different events, including lectures, dialogues, workshops, performances and exhibitions.
The theme of this years parliament is "Make a World of Difference" "Hearing each other and Healing the earth".
In addition to the climate change issue, key topics to be discussed in an open forum include, sharing wisdom in the search for inner peace, creating social cohesion in the pursuit of justice, reconciliation with indigenous people and overcoming poverty in a patriarchal world.
This historic event aims to be a festival of Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika), Indonesia's national motto. One is led to wonder if the parliament which has never met in Asia might one day meet here in Indonesia.
This multi-faith nation with it's strong spiritual underpinnings and tradition of synthesis accommodation, understanding of spiritual diversity and the individual's unique ability and right to receive grace has the potential to lead the development of a new paradigm in facing the spiritual crisis that besets this world.
Recent events here and the impact of inter-religious conflicts in other countries have eroded some of Indonesia's leverage in this sphere. Much as the destruction of rainforest's constrains Indonesia's influence and ability to play a major part in the climate change debate.
It's not too late however for Indonesia has just re-elected a president with an enlarged mandate obviously keen to see Indonesia playing an important part on the world stage.
These two major international issues climate change & religious harmony obviously present Indonesia, the president and people with an exciting opportunity.
Well thought out constructive policies in both these areas would gain much domestic support and see Indonesia's international profile considerably enhanced. It will need vision, expertise and serious commitment.
There are numerous reasons for Indonesia, to host the World Parliament of Religions.
Murray Clapham , Jakarta Tue, 11/24/2009 12:56 PM