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Interfaith Programs

Consultation in Lima on a Proposed Interreligious Council at the UN

Lima, Peru - Ambassadors for Peace in Peru gathered together on two occasions in August to discuss the proposal to establish an interreligious council at the UN and to consider ways to support this initiative.

For the first meeting, I gathered together the Presidents and Vice Presidents of UPF Peru, past and present, to share with them the background information and invite their feedback about this important topic. In this meeting we had a broad spectrum of Peruvian society, religious and political leaders:

  • Engineer Jorge Chavez, current President and former Prefect of Lima, appointed directly by the then President of Peru, Dr. Alejandro Toledo
  • Mr. Damin Awad, President of the Muslim Association of Peru
  • Gen. Hector Jhon Caro, former Police Chief and soon to be elected a councilman for Lima
  • Rev. Dr. Orestes Sanchez, Evangelical Minister and Conciliator (a position recognized by the government)
  • Architect Luis Huarcaya, former government minister for Indigenous Affairs
  • Dr. Rosa Castillo, Director of an NGO for disadvantaged people with a national membership of thousands
  • Pastor Luis Acero, Evangelical bishop with special responsibility for congregations in northern Peru

There was general agreement that we should call a further meeting to enable more Ambassadors for Peace to give their opinions. A week later we met again with more representatives from political, religious, and indigenous backgrounds. We dined together and shared ideas. Mr. Awad suggested that he would approach Ambassadors from various countries with whom he has good contact to ask them to lend their support to this proposal.

All the Ambassadors for Peace in Peru were mailed the proposal so that they could offer comments. I received an immediate reply from Dr. Antero Flores Araoz, former Minister of Defense and Peru's representative on the Global Peace Council. His words are reproduced here at the end of my report.

Also during July I had the opportunity to meet with Congresswoman Dr. Margarita Sucari. She has supported past observances of the UN International Day of Peace and will be working with us once again for this year's event.

July 28 was Independence Day in Peru, and I was invited to the Congress to listen to President Dr. Alan Garcia give the final such speech of his Presidency. There will be Presidential elections in April 2011, and there are many candidates, including three Ambassadors for Peace.

On the last day of the month I had the pleasure to dine with another Congressman and Ambassador for Peace, Dr. Yonhy Lescano. He invited my wife and me to his home, where we met his charming wife and adorable children. He is a very busy politician, sitting on seven different congressional committees, but still finds time to take care of his constituency in the high Andean city of Puno. The day following our meeting, he flew to Puno taking with him donations of clothes for the poor people of his area. The winter has been very severe again, and many families do not have adequate shelter or clothing to combat the sub-zero temperatures of the 4,000-meter high mountains.

Comments from Dr. Antero Flores Araoz, former President of Congress and Past Mimister of Defense, Peru:

Q. What is the mission and primary goals of the interfaith council?

The mission is to bring together leaders of different religions, with the aim of understanding each other, to practice tolerance, and then share this experience of togetherness with their followers so that they too can feel part of the same. We should not forget that in the world we see a confrontation between Muslims on the one hand and Christians on the other. If we are close to establishing an interreligious council then we will be able to affirm our similarities and reduce the discrepancies that exist. Through tolerance we can seek greater mutual understanding.

Q. Is it possible to build an interfaith council within the UN system?

There is nothing within the UN charter that precludes this proposal. It only requires goodwill to make it happen.

Q. How would the interfaith council function within the UN system?

It will help to achieve peace by lowering the level of confrontation between the faithful of different religions and, with the coming together of religious leaders their followers will recognize the value of tolerance.

Q. What steps are needed if we are to achieve the goal?

I think there should be a process of lobbying in all the countries where the UN is present, to make their respective foreign ministries aware of the necessity to form an interfaith council.

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