…If we but work to make it happen.
Last week I was privileged to participate in the global virtual conference, JUST FUTURE. The event was a direct result of work I have done over the past decade with the US-Pakistan Interreligious Coalition (UPIC), forging a deeper bond between our two countries. After numerous trips to Pakistan with religious leaders and community activists to address issues of human rights and to meet human need in both countries, the coronavirus impelled new ways of thinking. How can we confront these issues under lock-down conditions?
We sought a different way of being together, and the result was a virtual conference. JUST FUTURE took place over three consecutive days, July 15-17, for three hours a day. There were a total of 12 sessions that covered topics as far ranging as government digitalization and gender justice.
More than 1,000 registered for the conference and as many as 350 participated in any given session. Forty-eight presenters from six countries, many with international reputations, led the conference. The event received media coverage in Pakistan (which you can watch, here and here) and was live streamed by GIFT University, one of our partners, to an audience of 300,000.
Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, addressed the conference in the absence of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was detained on official business. Though the Prime Minister could not attend, he followed the events of the conference closely and pledged his support for our work in the future.
The success of the conference lies in more than just numbers or esteemed participants. Individual sessions held extraordinary content. Health Care Delivery featured scientists, entrepreneurs, educators and activists who explored preventive, prescriptive and educational responses to current health care crises like coronavirus.
In Cultural Economics, both Anjum Malik from Pakistan’s Sindh Province and Boston’s Mela Bush-Miles shared stories about sewing cooperatives as instruments of women’s empowerment and how, during the pandemic, the women shifted their efforts to make masks for health care workers. In completely different cultural settings, these two women and their organizations epitomized the intention of the conference and offered vibrant testimony as to how we are truly in these times together.
Artists from both countries made presentations in Beyond Words, and young people held one of the most innovative sessions in Youth Speak. One result of the conference was a commitment by JUST FUTURE leadership to continue sustained efforts that UPIC began a decade ago. Our extraordinary behind-the-scenes team of mostly young people put together by Just Results, the dynamic social enterprise specializing in inclusive development—and one of the newest UPIC partners—handled complex technical aspects of a global virtual conference with grace and style. The backstage team also committed to working together on future endeavors.
So, while the headlines in the US continue to roil with unsettling news about coronavirus spikes, the deployment of federal troops of unknown origin patrolling our cities and the impending end of unemployment benefits, I was left inspired by what I witnessed at last week’s conference. People of good will, committed to global harmony, worked together across national borders, learning from one another and forging concrete solutions to some of the world’s most intractable issues.