Christianity and Democracy in Global Context
In November of 1991, some 800 scholars, lawyers, theologians, clergy and laypersons from five continents converged on the Emory campus to discuss the roles Christianity has played in democratic movements around the world, how Christian thought influences democracy today and to what extent the interplay between democracy and Christianity benefits global society.
Former President Jimmy Carter opened the conference, urging participants to be realistic in their recognition of world problems yet, at the same time, offering optimism. "There is no more Cold War. We have an open slate to describe the future."
More than 40 authorities from around the world, including Desmond M. Tutu, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, debated the contributions of Christianity to democratic ideas and institutions in their homelands. Protestants and Catholics, Africans and Americans, freedom fighters and prime ministers shared the same stage and their own stories.
Tutu closed the conference to a crowd of 1,200 at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta. It is not in isolation but through community that we define our humanity, he said, adding, "God has made us different so that we can realize our need for one another. And so the truly democratic state would let people celebrate their rich diversity."