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FOCUS24 Series Kicks-Off with “Year of Democracy” Event Featuring Rev. Jim Wallis, Dr. Azza Karam and Ian Bassin

February 23, 2024

“A vote is a prayer for the future. And we must ensure all our prayers are heard.”

– Rev. Raphael Warnock

On Thursday, February 22nd the Parliament of the World’s Religions kicked off its year-long FOCUS24 | Faith, Democracy & Our Common Future: Shaping a Path Forward series with online event, “The Year of Democracy.”

The event was moderated by PoWR Trustee and Chair of the Global Ethic Committee Charline Manuel and featured Nitin Ajmera, Chair of the Board of Trustees of PoWR; Ian Bassin, Co-Founder and ED of Protect Democracy; Dr. Azza Karam, founding President and CEO of Lead Integrity; and Rev. Jim Wallis, Co-founder & Chair of Georgetown University’s Center on Faith and Justice. The 90-minute event included presentations from Mr. Bassin and Rev. Wallis accompanied by responses from Dr. Karam addressing the critical importance of 2024 as a global test for democracy, a test for people of faith, and an opportunity to reshape the political landscape to fulfill the true promise of an equitable democracy for all.

Key Takeaways:

  • Democracy around the world is in an era of downward spiral, with hybrid authoritarianism emerging in democracies around the world. Mr. Bassin reports that challenges to democracies in the 21st century come from elected anti-democratic governments and then once empowered dismantling democracy from within, targeting democratic institutions and civil liberties including the erosion of religious freedom and the targeting of religious leaders and communities.
  • There is a crisis of faith in democracy. Mr. Bassin reports that 1 in 4 U.S. millennials agree that Democracy is a “bad” or “very bad” way to run a government. 30 years ago, only one in 16 Americans said they would be comfortable with military or army rule in this country. Today, that number has jumped to one in five.
  • 2024 is a vital election year, marking a clear test for democracies across the world. Rev. Wallis highlights the importance of understanding that while this is a time of collapse, it is also a time for possibilities for people of faith to break down barriers and move deeper into the common values of all our traditions.
  • Resisting autocracy is possible, we have seen historic and modern examples of this. Rev. Wallis shared examples of movements from the 1930s that succeeded and failed to resist autocracy but taught us an important lesson: we must decide who must be persuaded and who needs to be defeated. Mr. Bassin shared the recent example of Poland and the Czech Republic as two countries that resisted threats to their democracies by building broad coalitions that understood the following: We can disagree on the policies, the issues, and the solutions but we all believe in democracy and need to protect it.
  • Faith communities and people regardless of their faith are key to building multifaith, and more importantly interfaith, coalitions that can protect democracy for all.

Resources on the Topic:

The full recording of the event will be available for FOCUS24 registrants on Monday, February 26th through December 31st via the All Access page. FOCUS24 is a year-long paid interfaith series building capacity, fostering community, and advancing advocacy efforts in this critical “year of democracy.” Join us in shaping a path forward, register today to access event recordings and join the upcoming events in the series.

Want to expand the dialogue with your community? Consider sharing the following guiding questions also posed to participants as part of the community activities section of the event: How have you personally been affected by the challenges to democracy? How can we utilize what we learned from the key takeaways and resources into practice? How can PoWR assist with this effort?