The world is shrinking. One can hardly go a day without hearing about events in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, or Israel. Recently leaders from around the world gathered in New York for President Clinton's Global Initiative Conference to discuss the challenges we face. Pastor and Leadership's editor-at-large Gordon MacDonald was there.
I was recently invited to the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York City by the former president. As far as I know only a handful of evangelicals were present among approximately 1,000 political, business, and cultural leaders.
The CGI Conference is a crossroads of ideas and networking to reduce cultural and political barriers that separate human beings and create the grounds for conflict and disaster. Panel topics included (1) Energy and Climate Challenge; (2) Global Health Issues; (3) Poverty Alleviation; and (4) Mitigating Religious and Ethnic Conflict. They were populated by people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Colin Powell, Rupert Murdoch, Paul Farmer, Kofi Annan, Hamid Karzai, Pervez Musharraf, Bill Gates, and Paul Kagame (president of Rwanda). And I have named only a few.
Amazingly, there was little energy spent on politics. Rather there was an incredibly serious tone, a clear awareness that the world is in greater trouble today than it has ever been.
Some (like the King of Jordan) spoke of the widening rift between the Muslim world and the West in almost prophetic tones. The two cultures are misunderstanding each others' hurts and aspirations.
Climate change, fresh outbreaks of disease, the lack of basic community health (clean water, vaccines, etc.) are all contributing to a growing frustration that threatens the stability of the entire world. Despite the drastic situation there was a streak of optimism. Perhaps that was because the people at the conference are all entrepreneurs, can-do people who choose to see the opportunities that crisis creates. There was little hand-wringing and a lot of innovative thinking.
I know, all too well, that Bill Clinton is a polarizing name among many Christians. My association with him over these years has lost me any number of friends. Personally, I grew to love him and greatly care for him in the years that I served as a personal adviser. I recall many conversations we had about his post-presidency and the priorities for this period of his life. Since leaving office he has used his amazing ability to convince people of wealth to see their social responsibilities.
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