The Justice Conference
The Justice Conference was held on 3-5 April 2015 at the de Poort Conference
Centre, Groesbeek, The Netherlands, with about 100 participants from around
the world. This was the 20th year that such conferences have been held, and
I also spoke at the conference last
year. The Conference theme was "Advancing
Justice: Spiritual Foundations and Practical Applications", and the
programme combined keynotes with several parallel workshops, all of a very
de Poort, The Netherlands
The opening talk was by Kiser Barnes,
a distinguished lawyer and law professor, and a former member of the
Universal House of Justice, the international council of the Baha'i Faith.
His topic was "Two Foundations of Justice: Moral Development and Service to
Humanity", and provided a solid review of the spiritual foundations for
justice provided in the Baha'i writings.
The conference poster; Kiser Barnes giving the opening keynote; Kiser
Barnes and Maja Groff
Ali Noroozi, Inspector-General of Taxation for the Australian
Government, gave a fascinating talk on "The Role of Taxation in Delivering
Economic Justice", making us almost feel we should love paying our taxes
(assuming that our government is just and efficient). This was followed by a
workshop on distributive justice together with Hooshmand Badee. Sovaidi
Ma'ani Ewing provided a broad overview of the governance dimension of
justice in her presentation on "Building a World Federation", drawn from her
new book Building a World Federation: The
Key to Resolving Our Global Crises, published by the Center for
Peace and Global Governance.
Conference organizer Maja Groff; Ali Noroozi and Sovaidi Ma'ani Ewing
giving their keynotes
Workshop by Ali Noroozi and Hooshmand Badee on distributive justice
I concluded the second day with a keynote on "Justice and Global Policy
Change for Environmental Stewardship", which highlighted the opportunities
presented by the expected adoption at the United Nations of the Sustainable
Development Goals as a new set of aspirations for greater economic, social
and environmental justice in the world over the next 15 years. I also led a
workshop on the relevance of justice to global environmental issues like
climate change and food security.
Arthur Dahl keynote and leading a workshop
The final day started with a plenary session on The
Future of Peaceful Inter-Religious Coexistence, starting with a
presentation over skype by Elham Manea of the University of Zurich on
"Islamic Law in the West? Secularism as a Necessary Basis for Peaceful
Inter-Religious Coexistence". Professor Manea had been unable to come in
person because, as both a Swiss and Yemeni national, she was advising the
Swiss government on the crisis in Yemen. Her main point was that proposals
to allow the application of Islamic law, especially about marriage and the
family, in western countries, had been shown to increase isolation and
extremism rather than facilitate integration. This was followed by IEF board
member Dr. Wendi Momen giving "Baha'i Perspectives on Inter-Religious
Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence".
The closing plenary was a deeply touching talk by Prof. Payam Akhavan on
"The Law of Oneness: Empathy and Justice in a World of Extremes". He drew on
his experience with the United Nations as a legal advisor investigating war
crimes and genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, among other places, and his
efforts before the highest tribunals to bring the perpetrators to justice.
This truly linked spiritual foundations and practical applications.
Workshops allowed for a deeper discussion of practical applications of
justice, such as actual cases facing a local government, the issues of
income inequality and poverty, and environmental challenges.
Part of the audience; a workshop; some participants in
the beautiful garden at de Poort
International Environment Forum members Iko Congo, Arthur Dahl, Wendi
Momen and Nuri Niyazi