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

Inter-religious councils can be a support for democratic change after the Arab spring

ILRS, International Leauge of Religious Socialists, held in june 15-17 2012 its Congress in Stockholm. The Congress adopted this Statement on the Arab spring.

Statement on the Arab spring
The Arab spring started in Tunisia, and it triggered a democratic earthquake throughout the Arab world, which has affected the entire Euro-Mediterranean area. Arab dictators and their protectors among the Western elites were threatened and some even terrified when the Arab peoples showed their determination to live in free and democratic countries.

Tunisia and Egypt have already conducted free and democratic elections, and new assemblies have been formed. However, the road to democracy is not straight and many obstacles lay ahead. The formation of democratic parties and spreading of a culture of democracy among men and women, among young and old, and among both the elite and the ordinary human being is a long process. The former elites are reluctant to let go of their economic privileges and their disproportional influence. Substantial political change comes from those who want real change for social justice, those who have something to gain from thorough change. Minor reshuffling of a few powerful individuals is not enough.

Religion can be a source of inspiration for true change and it can foster an urge to treat every human as equal. Religions often include components of charity and of sharing so that no individual may come to harm or starve. Religions may also motivate struggle for social justice and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa was led by among many Bishop Desmond Tutu. But we also know that Apartheid was inspired by Christian theologians. We may draw the conclusion that Christians and people of other faiths may use their religions to legitimate both social justice and social inequality.

As religious people we declare our conviction that men and women, and human beings of all creeds and traditions are equal in front of God in a fundamental way, and that no political or religious leaders is entitled to disregard this equality. This equality has political ramifications that will contribute to liberate the human being and promote democracy and social justice.

The ILRS congress in Stockholm June 2012 call upon political leaders and religious leaders in the Arab spring countries to:

• Establish working and confident cooperation between religious leaders of different religious traditions in the Arab spring countries. Such inter-religious councils may provide a confidence that will make religious leaders cooperate and act wisely in case of social crises.
• Initiate regular meetings between religious and political leaders in the Arab spring countries, in order to enhance mutual understanding and respect.
• To commit yourselves to work for the success of the democratic process which should bring about social justice and dignity for each and everyone and constitutions that guarantees these rights.

We urge political leaders in all ILRS member countries to:
• Support processes towards democracy in the Arab spring countries with non-violent means, and to facilitate interaction between civil society – including religions and political organisations – in the ILRS countries and in the Arab spring countries.

ILRS Congress
Stockholm, Sweden 2012-06-17


ILRS – associated member of the Socialist International

Our organisation was founded during the 1920s, and for most of our history has been a European organisation. However, in
recent years, the ILRS has greatly expanded its membership and contacts to Africa, Asia,  North and South America and
we currently represent over 200,000 socialists of different faiths in the world’s  socialist, social democratic, and labour parties.

We believe that aside from dealing with the issues of
globalisation, marginalisation, and human rights, that we have a responsibility to fight against religious fundamentalism as well as the use of religion as a tool of political conservatism.

The ILRS believes that as people of diverse faiths are
created equal before their Creator, we must fight for
tolerance of religious diversity, and social and economic equality throughout the world. We must fight to elminate
poverty and reverse the widening social, cultural, and
economic gap between peoples.

As an associate member of the Socialist International, the ILRS seeks to work within the member parties of the Socialist International, to achieve our common political goals.