It is our pleasure and privilege to invite you to join us for two back-to-back events--the Urban Shalom Forum: The Gospel and the Future of Cities, Nov. 10-13 in Singapore, and immediately following this event the United Nations Human Settlements Programme’s first ever Faith-Based Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC), Nov. 13-15, 2017, also in Singapore. At the UN’s invitation, the purpose of this second gathering is for communities and organizations of different faiths to make a significant contribution to the work of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, otherwise known as UN-Habitat.
A remarkable feature of contemporary thinking in urban development is that faith-based communities and organizations are now seen as a vital component in helping create sustainable and resilient cities around the world. Formal recognition by the United Nations, civil society organizations, and development agencies that faith-based communities are central to the wellbeing of communities in our increasingly urban cultures is long overdue, and offers many new possibilities. While the Christian church has a long history of sustaining communities in cities, this is the first time (at least we are aware of) that an official body such as UN-Habitat has asked faith communities for their insights and perspectives on cities, and extended a hand of goodwill to help contribute to the common good of placemaking.
How did we arrive at this particular historic moment where religions and faith-based organizations are being encouraged to deeply examine the global trends affecting the future development of cities; articulate a response grounded in one’s specific religious beliefs, values, and traditions; and encouraged to engage with UN-Habitat on the basis of those convictions?
In 2016 after an extensive three-year inter-governmental and civil society consultation process, member states of the United Nations agreed on a roadmap for urban development for the next twenty years. Entitled the New Urban Agenda (NUA-http://habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda), its purpose is to help guide governments, inter-governmental organizations, business, and civil society to respond to the challenges of a rapidly urbanizing world where over the next 20-30 years 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. Specifically, the challenge is to develop cities, towns, and neighbourhoods that are “just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable . . . [and] foster prosperity and quality of life for all. (NUA pg. 3)” Or more simply stated from a Christian perspective, places that are commensurate with God’s shalom for flourishing.
Because cities significantly impact the ecological integrity of creation, the most important everyday intersection between peoples’ lives and creation is where they live. Encouraging the Christian community, therefore, to contribute to designing and building sustainable and Shalom-infused cities, towns, and neighbourhoods is part of the leadership mandate of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Creation Care Task Force.
With this understanding and vision, the WEA Creation Care Task Force actively participated in UN-Habitat’s three-year civil society consultation process leading up to, and including, Habitat III. During this time organizations who shared God’s passion, love, and holistic understanding of cities--Micah Global, the International Society for Urban Mission (ISUM), and the Lausanne/WEA Creation Care Network)--came together to form the Urban Shalom Project (USP - http://urbanshalomproject.org).
This led the WEA and USP to apply, and be approved to host a World Urban Campaign Faith-Based Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) so we could continue to work on issues related to the NUA and share our distinctive Christian perspectives with UN-Habitat and other interested organizations.
In accordance with the purposes and spirit of the United Nations, the Faith-Based UTC is not only an opportunity for those from the Christian faith to engage with UN-Habitat, it is an opportunity for a multi-faith dialogue on the future of cities--which is something all religious communities have a common stake in.
As hosts of the UTC, we see our role as one of service. Essentially this means issuing the general call for convening a faith-based UTC and organizing the venue space and loose structure for the multi-faith dialogue. We do not presume to know how other religious communities or faith-based organization may want to prepare for this UTC, however, we are encouraging religions and faith-based organizations to convene in Singapore for “in-house religious dialogue” immediately prior to the UTC to prepare to participate as effectively as possible in the UTC.
For the Christian community we are organizing the Urban Shalom Forum (USF): The Gospel and the Future of Cities immediately prior to the UTC as the venue for our “in-house dialogue” and organizing leading into the UTC. Both these events, the USF and UTC, are described in more detail here.
Visit weacreationcare.org/world-urban-campaign-urban-thinkers-campus-info for more information.