Many commentators in Western countries today echo the thesis of Robert Samuelson of a "clash of civilisations" between the West and Islam. Meanwhile, however, virtually unacknowledged except in parts of the business world, a third power is rising relentlessly: Asia, spearheaded by China, with India not far behind.
This has been assumed to have little impact on life in Western countries like Australia, except in enhanced economic and cuisine opportunities. Such a presumption will prove very wrong. And this is an area in which Australia comprises the front-line Western society, unable to lean on others' experience.
Australia has already committed itself to comprehensive free trade agreements with Singapore and Thailand, and others are set to follow with Malaysia, with the ten members of the association of South East Asian Nations, and most importantly with China. Much has been written of the cultural implications of Australia's FTA with the United States, almost nothing of these FTAs with Asia.
An enormously confident China has a vision of a world in which it is once more the dominant Middle Kingdom, sharing global power with the USA. Australia has a modest capacity, through ever-increasing enmeshment with Asia, to inform and influence values and spiritual settings there.
But this engagement will inevitably also trigger a growing impact of Asian values and spiritual traditions on Australian churches and on the broader Australian way of life.