My father always says that if you don’t want to get into an argument, you shouldn’t talk about politics, money or religion at the dinner table. While he is right more often than not, I believe that when people are open enough, any of these topics can be discussed constructively.

Given the importance of faith and religion in political, economic and social developments around the globe, I don’t think we can turn a blind eye on religion, even if it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss.

In today’s globalized world, people are travelling more than ever, taking their faith and beliefs wherever they go. As such, we are becoming a diverse and multi-faith society. While the beauty and richness of people’s religious differences are obvious, these same differences can be the source of clashes between people.

Although, it is true that some countries, such as Canada, may have experienced declines in religiosity in recent years; religion still plays a central role in many other countries such as Brazil, where 84% of people say they have a religion and 97% of these say it is important to them.

Overall, research reveals that 80% of the world is affiliated to a religion. As such, religious communities are a powerful engine for transformation. In effect, 30% of people believe that religion is an important motivator for giving time and money to charity.

Yet, over the past few decades, religious institutions have struggled to address issues such as drug use, homosexuality and changing family relationships. Indeed, many of the world’s oldest institutions forbid same-sex marriage and some prohibit drug and alcohol use.

In view of the place of religion in society today, it is essential to consider how to reconcile the trends in society’s evolution with religious beliefs. Can religious institutions still play a role in instilling tolerance and values in society in the 21st century?

Come and join us for a debate on religion at the Open Forum 2013 in Davos on Friday, 25 January. Panellists, including Sulak Sivaraksa, Narkis Alon, Pinchas Goldschmidt, Lawrence Krauss and Christopher Jamison, will re-examine the place religion holds in the world today.

Author: Tiffany Misrahi is Senior Associate, Global Agenda Councils, at the World Economic Forum

 Image: A worshiper prays at a church in Srinagar REUTERS/Danish Ishmail