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The latest news and events from the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. Update your profile to receive the e-news in Welsh. 

Professor Grace Davie leads discussion on religion and Islam

On 13 April, the WCIA welcomed Professor Grace Davie from Exeter University to the Temple of Peace to explore the importance of religion in the public sphere in her talk, ‘Contextualising Islam in 21st Century Britain’. 
 
Professor Davie began her discussion by noting that the debate about religion and public life is very important for the democratic future of countries, stating that if we cannot allow for religious diversity then there is something very wrong with our democracy.
 
She drew upon five factors which she believes people must take into account in order to understand religion in Britain, as well as the complexities and pressure that is put on the Muslim community, these being; cultural heritage; vicarious religion; the shift from obligation to consumption; new arrivals; and secular alternatives.
 
Professor Davie then spoke about three world changing events that she considers to have been pivotal in the debate about religion; the 1979 Iranian Revolution; the fall of communism in 1989; and the 9/11 bombings in the USA.
 
She suggested that since these events, discussions about religion have become more prominent in fields of social science including law, politics, welfare and health care. In each of the different fields of study, something different is bought to the table and only by bringing all of these fields together can we have a constructive debate about issues of extreme importance.  The problem, Professor Davie suggested, is that there is still very much an ill informed and ill mannered debate within the media about religion and in particular, Islam.
 
The discussion then concluded with a Q&A session. One audience member drew upon the discussion of the social sciences as a lens to study religion and asked whether it is possible to effectively study social sciences and be devoutly religious and in particular Muslim. To this Professor Davie replied; "Being a Muslim gives you great insight and means for reflection, everyone brings baggage to the table from all aspects of life, therefore there is nothing to stop you from studying the social sciences well if you are a Muslim or of any other religion or background."
 
We spoke to audience members after the discussion to find out what they thought;
 
“Grace’s talk was empowering in discussing the new sociology of religion when religion nowadays is being so often marginalised in contemporary debates,” said Matthew Vince.
 
Becci Broard said it was: “A really intellectually stimulating debate that raised a lot of interesting questions surrounding the integration of religion within the public sphere, it was especially interesting to learn about the importance of emphasising the positive role religion can play within the context of policy making. A great talk.” 
 
Professor Davie said of the event that there was a: “Lovely welcome, very interesting questions and a wonderful audience”. 

To learn more about Grace’s talk, read the event write up and view pictures, head to our post event resources page.




 

Baroness Scotland explores the role of the Commonwealth

On 22 March, the WCIA invited Baroness Scotland, new Secretary General of the Commonwealth to the Temple of Peace to explore the role of the Commonwealth today from the perspective of Wales and other Commonwealth members from around the world.
 
After students from the local area welcomed Baroness Scotland, President of the WCIA, Sir Emyr Jones Parrry, introduced the event and spoke about the way in which the Commonwealth helps us to better solve issues like climate change and security.
 
During her talk, Baroness Scotland discussed the value of the Commonwealth for Wales and the UK. She spoke of how the Commonwealth is an asset to every country and of the advantages we have from working together.

There are issues, she said, that we cannot solve alone and that are a threat to the whole world, such as climate change and terrorism, these are multilateral problems that are best tackled together. She spoke about how she intends to pull together a Commonwealth climate change summit.
 
Baroness Scotland also discussed the opportunities that the Commonwealth provides for sharing expertise and working together to create platforms for dynamic communication. This means that we can learn from one another, for example in Rwanda, the health care system involves cross-country 4G meaning that thousands of nurses can liaise with doctors over mobile phones.
 
The Baroness said that one of her biggest aspirations as Secretary General was to eliminate domestic violence from the world. The only way that a country can be truly wealthy, she argued, is by investing in social capital, by treating men and women equally, and by ensuring that women and girls play a proper role in development and leadership.
 
Concluding the talk Baroness Scotland reflected on the way her father taught her at age six the value of personal action on big issues; explaining to her father how the apartheid regime in South Africa made her feel, her father asked; what are you going to do about this? She boycotted South African fruit!

She said that she has followed this commitment of asking herself what she can do about international issues since this point. She concluded: “It starts with us as individuals, I want to encourage you to ask these questions, you are never too small to start: “My father taught me at six years old that ‘you’ is ‘all of us’ and that you are never too small to make a difference”.
 
After the event, Susie Ventris-Field, Deputy Chief Executive of the the WCIA said; “Baroness Scotland was an inspirational and knowledgeable speaker, and we hope those present will seek to answer her question; what are YOU going to do to make a change?”
 
To learn more about Baroness Scotland’s visit, head to our post event page.

UNA Exchange Volunteer 
Opportunities

UNA exchange aims to promote peace, intercultural understanding and personal development by offering community based volunteering opportunities in Wales and around the world. They support people to volunteer on a wide variety of projects with partners in over 60 countries.
 
UNA exchange coordinates projects in Wales where volunteers can learn about different cultures and global citizenship, and support local organisations to make a positive change in their communities.
Every summer there are 8-10 2 week work camps that take place across Wales welcoming over 70 volunteers. These include; working on organic farms in Pembrokeshire, projects in the South Wales Valleys and environmental work in an outdoor centre on Gower. As well as this, weekend volunteering programmes are also available which intend to give volunteers in Wales the opportunity to get involved in projects with a diverse group of volunteers.
 
As well as opportunities available in Wales, UNA Exchange provides a range of international volunteering opportunities including; work camps; step by step programmes; medium to long term projects; European voluntary service; and group projects. These all provide personal development through building new skills and taking part in enriching experiences.
 
According to UNA Exchange, volunteering abroad and in Wales is a way of promoting peace and intercultural understanding between people of different backgrounds. Volunteers can learn about different cultures, attitudes and ways of living which help to encourage cooperation and mobility.
 
If you would like to learn more about the projects available in Wales and abroad then head to the UNA exchange website, read the volunteer blogs and search for projects available now and during the summer.

Wales for Peace Map goes live

The Wales for Peace Peace Map is now live! The map shows peace heritage around Wales as entered by communities across the country.
 
The map shows organisations, volunteering and events you can get involved in as well as Peace Builders’ and Soldiers’ stories.
 
Take a look at the map and become involved in a peace heritage near you.

'An Election for Future Generations'

On 12 April organisations from around Wales came together to host a hustings meeting with party representatives ahead of the upcoming elections on 5 May.
 
The hustings, chaired by Glyn Mathias addressed some of the biggest long term global issues affecting the lives of the people in Wales and around the world.
 
The event was attended by representatives from the main political parties in Wales who were asked how they would work towards developing their vision in the interest of future generations in Wales and across the world if they were to form the next Welsh government.
 
Representatives from each party included William Powell from Welsh Liberal Democrats; Alice Hooker-Stroud from Welsh Green Party; Llyr Huws Gruffydd from Plaid Cymru; Anna McMorrin from Welsh Labour and Ross England from Welsh Conservatives.
 
Some thoughts from Twitter were:

“Llyr Huws Gruffydd makes a valid point on targeting policies at younger generations to re-engage them in politics” (Matt Francis)
 
“Disappointing that UKIP Wales chose not to attend” (Alexander Phillips)
 
“Alice Hooker-Stroud (Green Party) emphasises community participation, consultation and using resources for benefit of others on Green Energy” (Jamie-Lee Cole)
 
There was a lively stream of tweets using the hashtag #WFGHustings, click here to see more.

Six Questions for the Six Party Leaders

In the weeks leading up to the Assembly Elections on 5 May, we are asking Wales’ party leaders six questions about global issues.

We will be publishing the full responses to each question on our blog before voting opens.
 
We have already received answers on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, approaches to refugees and sanctuary, contributions to overseas aid and opportunities for young people to become active global citizens.
The answers to these questions can be found on our Facebook page.

UKIP were invited to participate but did not submit responses to the questions by the deadline.
Our events

Remembering for Peace Exhibition and Events, 30 April – 20 June, Wales for Peace. Find out more.

Our training and CPD

Debate Training for Beginners, 4 July, National Assembly for Wales. Find out more and register.

Other dates for your diary

Efforts and Ideals: Prints of the First World War, 26 March – 28 May, National Library of Wales. Find out more.
 
Life in the Occupied Left Bank, Talk by Manal Tamimi, 6 May, Temple of Peace, UNA Cardiff & Cardiff Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Find out more.
 
Focus on: Health in Africa, 11 May, Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Wales for Africa Health Links and Hub Cymru Africa. Find out more and register.
 
The Power of Language, The Language of Power, Talk by Professor John Edwards, 17 May, Institute of Welsh Politics, Aberystwyth. Find out more.
 
‘Tackling Slavery in Wales’, Talk by Stephen Chapman, 19 May, Temple of Peace, UNA Cardiff. Find out more.
 
What happened in the 2016 Election? Talk by Professor Roger Scully, 26 May, Institute of Welsh Politics, Aberystwyth. Save the date.

Blog

Read the latest blogs from our contributors.

Event resources

‘Charity begins at home?’ Talk from the Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, Mark Goldring, 24 February. Post event report, photos, video of routable discussion, video of Mark Goldring talk.

‘The Role of the Commonwealth in the 21st Century’ Talk from Baroness Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, 22 March. Event story.
 
‘Contextualising Islam in 21st Century Britain’ Talk from Professor Grace Davie, 13 April. Event report, pictures and video.

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