I am now in Geneva. I arrived in the afternoon after losing a connection from Amsterdam to Geneva due to the delay that we had in Tehran. It took me more than 12 hours to get here. I am attending an international workshop on Religion and Politics held jointly by the International Institute for Dialogue Among Civilizations, The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and The Club of Madrid. That is the Center led by President Khatami, the Oslo Center led by Prime Minister Bondevik (Norway ) and the Club of former world leaders.
This is an initiative aimed at understanding the interplay between religion and politics in the West and Islamic societies. Issues dealing with secularism and democracy, political Islam, the importance of appreciating diversity will be raised tommorow, during the four sessions we will have.
We had an introductory session tonight and President Khatami and Mr Bondevik spoke while others had the chance to introduce themselves, Mr. Jospin the former French Prime Minister as well as the former Bosnian Prime Minister, many academicians and scholars and religious leaders were also there. I think we will have a unique opportunity tommorow to listen to some interesting views on these issues.
I have been asked to moderate the second panel on religion and democracy. This seems to be the "crunch issue", referring to the term used to underscore the major contentious issues in international negotiations. Can religion and democracy come to terms ? Can the Islamic state come to undertake the basic provisions of political freedoms, civil liberties and at the same time ensure an ethical and balance approach in governance? Well we have to wait until tommorow to see what is going to be said.