The Theme
Scholars of religion point to “the Axial Age” (roughly the first millennium BCE) as the period of the dawn of the great classical religions that we know today. These days, it’s often suggested that we have entered a second great “turning on the religious axis,” a Second Axial Age. If the first brought the individual to the fore, the latter shifts our focus to the global dimension of ethical, religious, and spiritual awareness and action. What are the most dramatic changes that might be on the horizon? What is the promise of our evolutionary age? What are the dangers, the challenges, and the opportunities? What does it mean to be at the threshold of a “Second Axial Age?” What commitments to action can we offer?

The Event
The Dialogues will be convened in Rome and Florence, Italy in October 2012. There will be events in both cities (connected by a 1.5 hour express train). The purpose of the gathering will be to explore the evolution of religion and spirituality in the 21st century, as a significant challenge and opportunity for the world. The event will, we intend, set the stage for the next decades of evolutionary activism, and for a “Second Axial Age” in religion and spirituality.

In the months preceding the event, key participants and their organizations will work in consultation with the Organizing Team to draft some major components of A Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century. The event will take the form of dialogues (rather than lectures and major presentations) on key evolutionary changes (“Axial Markers”) in religion and spirituality in our time and on the in-depth review, refinement, and implementation of the Charter as a continuously unfolding framework for religious and spiritual evolution and engagement.

Organizers will work with the partner organizations to refine the working list of “Markers,” which may include: Interreligious Awakening, the New Religious and Spiritual Story, Emerging Models for Community and Leadership, Peace and the Just Society, Planetary Community and the Sacred Earth, and Rediscovering the Spirit.

Convening Organizations
Three organizations – AGNT, ICPC, and IEP21 – will share responsibility for developing and implementing the event. They will work closely with colleagues in Italy, including representatives of the Focolare movement, and other NGOs.

Key Participants
The 2012 Charter Dialogues will revolve around a Core Group, featuring key members of the International Interreligious Peace Council and their peers from the world’s religious and spiritual communities. Additional invitees will be drawn from the world’s “guiding institutions,” including in addition to religion: government, commerce, education, the arts, science, intergovernmental institutions, and civil society. Selected representatives of the convening organizations (AGNT, ICPC, IEP21) will complete the Core Group of some 50 members.

The convening organizations plan to invite an additional 200 persons as members of a broadly inclusive Action Group of people engaged in the heroic effort to build a better world, who will make up the audience for the Dialogues. The Action Group will participate in plenary sessions – listening, learning, and helping to frame the Charter. In addition, they will take part in training/working sessions in which they will help to shape action plans to benefit local and regional programs in their own communities and areas of expertise.