What started as an annual conference for people who wanted to share ideas has now become one of the most visited websites in the world. Now the famous conference is coming to the Vatican.
On April 19, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture will open "TEDxViadellaConciliazione", a global meeting which discuss religious freedom in today's world.
ZENIT spoke with Giovanna Abbiati, the curator of the conference to find out more about the upcoming event.
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ZENIT:What is TED?
Abbiati: TED is an annual conference where the most brilliant people on earth gather to share ideas that worth spreading, their talks are freely posted on TED website to be shared by millions all around the world.
ZENIT:Why TEDx and the Catholic Church?
Abbiati: Being a catholic means having a universal spirit. The mission of the Church has always been to testimony the spiritual encounter of the divine with the human being.
The resources coming out from this encounter has to be spread! But how? With all the languages we know, so that everybody can understand. One of the new languages we have in common in contemporary world is digital language. Through digital language TED spread ideas, we want to learn how to use this connective power and spread also spiritual resources.
ZENIT: Why did you choose the theme religious freedom today?
This theme is important if we want to talk about peace. This is the scenario: in secularized society often signs of religion are banned in working places, religious symbols hidden. In other countries restriction of religion is very high. Pew Research Center reports that more than 2.2 billion people – nearly a third of the world’s population – live in the 23 countries with increasing government restrictions or social hostilities involving religion. Why do we fear religion? We should only fear fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is a perversion of religion. Violence is not religion, to perform violence in the name of religion is not religion.
ZENIT: What do you hope to achieve with “TEDxviadellaConciliazione”?
Abbiati: We want to reaffirm that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. First of all it is an aspiration of the soul. Religious freedom consists in the protection of all men and women from coercion of one's conscience. Second: through religion we discover who we are, we discover values and the respect of this values. Genuine religion has a full role in society to make our world a world of justice and peace. All religions have the common responsibility to humanity and the world.
Abbiati: Do you want to transform society? Don’t marginalize! Start from your community. Your community can be your neighbor, your brother. Take care of the vulnerable, the old, the widow, the stranger then try to make a chain, look for followers. Second (this requires all the force that faith can give): love in hate, love in fights, love in forgiveness, love as God’s love, love the prisoners, love the dying person.
To realize these challenge is hard, the very important thing is that they don’t have stay to the table or only to the level of leadership. Start from the young people.
ZENIT: Who did you invite and why?
Abbiati: We looked for speakers able to promote unity in every field. We started from culture. We looked for single talents and visionaries able to show us the existence of common grounds, common ideals, common predicaments, both in the religious world and in the cultural world. Soumaya Slim with the Soumaya Museum, Sheika Hussah al Salem, Sabah with Darmuseum, they promote beauty and identity through art, one in Mexico, the other in Kuwait City. Two different worlds, one goal.
Moreover we looked for people able to inspire us with their faith, look at Alicia Vacas and her great job in Holy Land,Leone Narvaez peacemaker in the FARC,Colombia, and how society and communities can benefit of such a strength.
ZENIT:Why the TED format?
Abbiati: In the era of sharing TED was able to spread ideas in a positive way. Watching TV , listening to Radio, exploring the web , what we receive is a negative view of the world. TED is a platform that talks to share optimism. We don’t want to say that evil does not exist, but that to talk only of darkness forgetting that the light is there, it is so negative for the human being, it clips the wings. We’re made of flesh but our spirit is made to fly beyond!
ZENIT:What is your dream?
Abbiati: We have to learn how to co-exist—how to love. Love, not only ideas, is what connects us all.