Consultation in Ottawa on a Proposed Interreligious Council at the UN
Written by Franco Famularo, UPF-Canada
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Ottawa, Canada - With the objective of creating a Canadian working group to promote an interreligious council both at the UN and in Canada, Ambassadors for Peace from across the country gathered for an interfaith consultation in Ottawa on Aug. 26, 2010.
Chaired by Hon. David Kilgour, former Member of Parliament and Secretary of State, the meeting began with opening remarks by UPF-Canada Secretary General, Franco Famularo, who referred to the original purpose of the founding of the UN and summarized Dr. Sun Myung Moon’s vision for an interreligious council at the UN, which was first proposed on August 18, 2000.
With the unanimous agreement of all present, Hon. Kilgour suggested that the meeting focus on how Canadians can work together to advance the proposal.
The working group consisted of Rev. Darryl Gray, Christian pastor and founder of the Imani Family Church in Montreal who serves as senior advisor to UPF-Canada; Acharya Shrinath Prasad Dwivedi from Vancouver, who serves as President of the Global Hindu Foundation; Mrs. Hannelore Poncelet, educator and member of the Unitarian Universalist Church; and Lloyd Spencer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Due to a national crisis involving the Canadian Muslim community, Imam Zijad Delic, Executive Director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, had to cancel his participation at the last minute.
At Hon. Kilgour’s request, Genie Kagawa began the meeting with a briefing on developments during the past decade and explained about the mechanics of getting resolutions passed, as well as possible strategies to move the project forward. The Assistant Director of UPF's Office of UN Relations, Mrs. Kagawa noted that Canada was not among the 57 nations which supported the earlier Philippine proposals for promoting interreligious dialogue at the UN.
Mrs. Joy Pople, Assistant Communications Director of UPF, suggested that in order to demonstrate the value of such a council, examples at the local (municipal, state, or national) levels would have impact. She cited outcomes of interreligious cooperation in Nepal, the Philippines, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
Canada has a reputation worldwide as a country of peace and has played a key role at the UN Security Council in the six terms it has had a seat on it. For example, there are initiatives to establish a Department of Peace in Canada and other nations.* UPF could recommend that an interreligious council be part of such proposals.
Two of the participants made specific proposals:
Firstly, Acharya Dwivedi proposed that council seats be apportioned among representatives of historic religions, aboriginal and minority faiths, interfaith organizations, Nobel Peace laureates, well-known religious leaders, and people from countries not otherwise represented.
Mrs. Poncelet presented a proposal for establishing interrreligious councils on local levels, who would elect representatives to interreligious councils on higher levels to address issues that cannot be solved at lower levels. Such a process could build organically to an interreligious council that would address issues on a global level.
One line of reasoning that might appeal to the Canadian government would be the money-saving value of the kind of preventative diplomacy that religious leaders working collaboratively could offer.
The meeting produced an Action Plan that included the following steps:
- Send information about the proposal to members of Parliament, multifaith councils, and faith bodies (including First Nation groups).
- Research why Canada did not sign on to previous proposals for an interreligious council at the United Nations
- Assemble case studies that show the impact that interreligious councils can make
- Develop local multi-faith councils and explore the possibility of a national interfaith council.
- Meet with officials in relevant government ministries.
Also present were Dr. Chae Hee Lee, Chair of UPF-Canada; Robert Duffy, President of UPF-Canada; Mrs. Lilly Tadin, President of the Women’s Federation for World Peace-Canada; Daniel Stringer, Chair of the National Capital Peace Council; Isabelle Laurin, Secretary of the Council of Interreligious Leaders of Montreal North; and Stoyan Tadin, UPF representative in Toronto.
* This initiative is having a growing impact. Three nations have a national Ministry of Peace: Costa Rica, Nepal, and the Solomon Islands; there is a Peace Secretariat in Guatemala's presidency. Representatives from 40 nations attended a Global Alliance Summit for Ministries and Departments of Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica, September 17-21, 2009.
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