The IPC [Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom] has now been held in Brussels, Rome, Washington, and Scranton – the upper-middle-class Aspen (who knew that Real America was full of Democrats??). Scranton could also become New York’s answer to such Washington-centric retreats as Greenbrier and Wye Plantation. The IPC has its own mission, but Northeast Pennsylvania seems wise enough to benefit as well as contribute.
On a very tight budget, the IPC has proven itself to be an important forum, and not just for parliamentarians. Diplomats, academics, journalists and business and religious leaders all have a voice, since the solutions must be found and implemented collectively. The combination of issues discussed and the tenor of debate is unique among international gatherings. The Interparliamentary Union is a vital and necessary organization, yet it connects the chairs speakers of parliaments rather than those who are literally the “movers” and “shakers”. Also, it hardly addresses religious sensibilities, spiritual inspiration, or controversial and imperative human rights challenges. There really was no IPC before, so Joe Grieboski had to invent it.
This year’s deliberations generated not only their own buzz, addressing head-on a number of “hot spots” and perennial international dilemmas, but also provided critical data for achieving the IPC’s natural global mandate. The formal panels are useful, and next year might offer an opportunity to try variations including one or two sessions using more interactive, talk-show formats. The Ethiopian First Lady and the Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister lent some prestige to the proceedings, and their role was not limited to formal speeches. There is a growing constituency of IPC veterans who are already changing the face of their regions and countries as a result.
As last week’s attacks in Mumbai demonstrated – on multiple levels – religion is too often abused or blamed for crimes of violence and assaults on universal values and fundamental humanity. It is past due that religions be allowed to contribute their genius and their billions of followers to resolving these and other conflicts, and to tell some of the success stories from alleviating suffering and advancing human fulfillment. Scranton, a city of industrious immigrants still arriving from every corner of the globe, is well poised.
Although the Far East, Latin America and Western Europe were under-represented this year, as were certain Islamic streams, but each annual session faces its own circumstances. If next year’s session convenes again in the same location, which provided flawless facilities and administration, the turnout should be even better.
With the United Nations’ New York headquarters entering dry dock for the next several years, Scranton offers most governments an attractive, growth-oriented market for investment and trade, and only two hours’ drive from New York and a bit further from Washington.