A secular state, cooperating with religious people and institutions

ILRS meeting with Mr Antonio Hernando, MP, Spanish Socialist Party PSOE

The Executive Committee of ILRS had on September 20, 2013 a meeting with Spanish MP Antonio Hernando, secretary of institutional politics of PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Party. The meeting took place in the central office of PSOE in Madrid.

The ILRS’s ambition is to contribute to mobilizing the religious left. The ILRS EC and Antonio Hernando agreed that if Social democrats may mobilize all progressive people in our respective societies to vote, religious and secular ones alike, Social democratic parties have much to gain. The votes and participation of progressive Catholics and the votes of other progressive religious people are welcome. In any globalized and thus plural society, the state has a particular responsibility to treat all religions and religious people equally. That is the way to make space for all citizens’ active contribution to building society. The challenge is how to build a secular state without loosing the active support of religious people. A secular state, religious freedom and cooperation with religious people and institutions is the way ahead.

The ILRS strives to describe a approach to building democratic and just societies that is relevant in the globalized era. Globalization is changing our societies thoroughly and migration changes the religious diversity inside countries irrevocably. As a consequence, new social, religious and political movements emerge. In the 21st century social justice as ideal for building society is found not only in the historic labour movement. Progressive movements, and social justice oriented individuals, just like movements for ecological sustainability are found also in civil society, in NGO’s and among religious people. In religions we may find both progressive and conservative movements and individuals. Social democratic parties are mobilizing all progressive voices religious and secular ones alike.

Socialist and Social democratic parties need to face the challenge of becoming relevant to large numbers of citizens and voters in a society marked by economic crisis and change. That means to generously invite and include old and new progressive voices. To mobilize progressive citizens of all backgrounds and promote social justice, solidarity and a fair society are ways of becoming relevant in our contemporary pluralistic society.


Madrid 2013-09-24

It is time to mobilise the religious left!

ILRS statement to the SI Congress in Cape Town 2012

It is time to mobilise the religious left!

Over the last decades religions have been returning to the political arena. Aggressive religious right-wing movements and religious conservatism get a lot of media attention and they are far away from Social Democratic ideals and practice of solidarity and social justice. But we need to stress, there are many religious people in all traditions that are fed up with terror and xenophobia in the name of religion, and who are very keen to work for a Social Democratic vision, in their own societies, in their own ways.

ILRS wants to reach out to the many religious people who are convinced that their religious traditions teach them respect for all one’s neighbours, all over the globe. All socialists should open themselves to see the political implications of religious language about generosity, forgiveness, grace, that both men and women are created equal, solidarity and that each the human beings are responsible for God’s creation.

The religious right has not been enough challenged by progressive religious people when it comes to issues that they label “religious”, such as women’s reproductive health etc. But as progressive people of faith we intend to widen the discussion to include also distribution of wealth, solidarity, equality and sustainability.

Progressive people of faith can contribute in many ways to the political work of the SI family. ILRS urges the SI to recognize the importance of mobilising progressive people of faith. Making room for dialogue and practical work inside the parties for people of different faiths will provide a tool, and an arena, for understanding and tolerance. It will serve the party and provide an example for society as a whole.

Today progressive people of faith often feel homeless. Some religious leaders speak up for conservative and reactionary ideas. Too often socialist parties are not addressing only the ideas in question, but tend to criticise religion as a whole. An anti-religious fundamentalism is often the norm. As a result religious people with progressive opinions feel alienated from the parties that stand for their own values. In an era when religion is coming back to the global political arena, this causes a loss of political momentum for social justice and for Socialist Democratic values.  ILRS are convinced that SI parties could expand their outreach significantly by mobilising the religious left.

Migration and increasing interaction between people of different faiths underlines the necessity to respect differences on a daily basis, and to respect the type of meaning provided by religions. The parties of the SI family should not leave people of faith to the conservative right wing fundamentalists. It is not religions that cause tensions in society, but social inequality and the increasing gap between rich and poor. There are progressive people in all religions who can be strong allies in our struggle for justice. We have to open up ourselves for new alliances, and provide progressive people of faith with an alternative that respects religion and supports justice, equality and sustainability. This is one way how the SI family may return to the frontlines of building a world where the well being of human beings and of nature are not costs or assets in a calculation, but what life and politics is all about.

The ILRS urges the SI family to

Reform the SI family to make it more inclusive of new progressive movements like youth in the Arab spring, and religious socialists. And acknowledge that religion can be a source of energy for solidarity, equality and sustainability.

– Start meetings between national religious leaders and national political leaders addressing social issues of contemporary concern.

– Start meetings locally between trade union leaders, worker’s leaders and religious people to learn to know each other and to start creating a common image of a society in which we all can live.

– Make democratic socialism again defend progressive change, and not so much defend victories in the past.




Cecilia Dalman Eek, President of ILRS