A world unhinged

In light of the UN Secretary-General's recent comments, Tim Costello asks: has the institution of religion also become "unhinged"?

At the UN General Assembly on 19 September, the Secretary-General said that ‘Our world is becoming unhinged … We cannot effectively address problems as they are if institutions don’t reflect the world as it is. Instead of solving problems, they risk becoming part of the problem.’

I was in Istanbul at the time, leading a group of 36 Christian pilgrims in the ‘Steps of the Apostles’. I paused to wonder about the ‘institution’ of religion: has it also become unhinged?

In Türkiye, President Erdogan has used state funding to build hundreds of mosques, playing the religious card with rural Turkish Muslims in order to win re-election in May this year. The political message was: our national economic and political troubles are a result of a failure to honour Allah. And it worked.

In Manipur, India, four months ago, mobs reportedly set fire to more than 200 churches in BJP-inspired Hindu fanaticism. And now the Modi Government has been charged by Canada with assassination of a Sikh Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.

In the US, so many evangelicals are rusted-on Trump supporters despite January 6 and Trump being charged with 91 criminal indictments across four jurisdictions.

I do not know when the global order started breaking down; I suspect it began after the global financial crisis of 2008 and the consequent crisis of trust. Conspiracists and populist authoritarian leaders stepped into the gap.

War in Ukraine, the global refugee crisis, raging climate change – these are complex world problems. Religions have the resources to grapple with such complexity and contribute to solutions; but they can just as easily fuel religious nativism and further unhinge the world. Which will it be?