Inclusion is an especially important concept for the 7th convening of the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, on November 1-7 of this year. We’re claiming that there is greater promise in being inclusive than in being restrictive or exclusive. Sounds accurate, right?
But I want to suggest that inclusivity, as it is usually framed, can also be problematic.
Those who are acting — on their own terms — to include others who have been previously excluded are not practicing authentic inclusion. That is because they are subtly denying the agency and power of those who have been excluded. That is, by retaining the condition of inequality, they are still engaged in acts of injustice. Inclusion becomes fully authentic only when the excluded lay claim to their own inclusion and on their own terms.
It is our hope that the Parliament of the World’s Religions meeting in Toronto can be an instance of authentic inclusion and can serve as a template for genuine inclusion in a variety of other settings.
(I write this a day after the commemoration of the death of someone who proclaimed and demonstrated authentic inclusion as he shared the vision of a “beloved community.”)