The Common Good, or Transactional Religion?

Author: Azza Karam

Azza Karam is very familiar with inter-religious dialogue and work towards the common good. She served nearly two decades with the United Nations where she co-founded and chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Religion. She has published widely and lectured at various universities including West Point Military Academy in the USA and is a internationally respected leader in interreligious dialogue. 


Professor Karam was also one of the Ansari Institute's esteemed guests on the Pen and the Sword Panel at the Parliament of the World's Religions. There, she and other panelists, discussed the work of religion as key actors in advancing sustainable development.

In this piece The Common Good, Or Transactional Religion? published in the Inter Press, Professor Karam draws attention to a growing trend within inter-governmental and international relations: the leveraging of religion to enhance the perception of dialogue without the actual engagement of religious actors. Moreover, she criticizes the use of religion to enhance the seeming altruistic nature of dialogue while noting that far too many of those with access to the table are not themselves engaged in acts of service, gifts of charity, and - most importantly - the defense of human and civil rights which has historically been at the heart of nearly all universal religions. As Professor Karam says, her dislliusionment is with " the trend of commercialisation of religion, the business of ‘doing religion’. The emerging marketplace of “religion and [fill in the blanks – and anything is possible]” is reminiscent of not too many decades ago, when so many academics, consultants, think tanks, NGOs, worked on the business of democracy and/or good governance and/or human rights."