Interfaith Programs

Consultation in Auckland on a Proposed Interreligious Council at the UN

Auckland, New Zealand - UPF-New Zealand hosted a consultation on the proposal for an interfaith council at the United Nations during its Aug. 14, 2010, meeting. A summary of the discussion follows:

1) An Anglican priest, who is also an army chaplain, explained that the main source of conflict in the world today can be categorized as the “Balkanization” of the world – intra-national conflicts, based on ethnicity or religious differences. Hence an interfaith council may be able to address these issues more effectively.

2) There is a need for increased interreligious dialogue on the local, national, and regional levels to develop the consciousness among religious leaders that will allow an interfaith council at the global level to function well.

3) A Samoan national expressed that sometimes the types of aid sent to the Pacific islands by organisations such as the UN through the UN Development Programme or the World Health Organization are not culturally or religiously sensitive. An interfaith council at the UN would provide a forum for representatives of aid recipients to voice those concerns and explain the cultural sensitivities involved with certain types of aid.

4) The need for interfaith cooperation to move beyond dialogue into service was expressed. Many religious groups are involved in community service, but generally they work by themselves. Interfaith collaboration in community service would send a powerful message and build important bridges among communities.

5) The religious viewpoint on a situation can serve to provide an understanding of the root cause of a problem, rather than merely dealing with the symptoms. For example, the spread of AIDS is not only a health issue but also a moral issue, and can be addressed from both directions.

6) One participant who had lived in Beirut, Lebanon, for many years aired the point that conflicts that may appear to be, or be presented as being, religious in nature may in fact be a result of corruption on a governmental level.

7) It was noted that the mere presence of an interfaith body at the UN may bring a more ethical standard to the wider organization. Also, sometimes through religious teachings, people can begin to gain a new perspective and insight about resolving historical issues and resentments.

8) The point was made that analyses of the main teachings of all major religions show that approximately 70 percent of all teachings are common, and the differences account for only 30 percent. Therefore we should devote more focus to what religions have in common.

9)  A community leader from the Cook Islands reported that there they have a Religious Advisory Council, which has a strong position and authority in that community.

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