Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

Diplomats Voice Support for an Interreligious Council

Excerpts of statements made by diplomats in support of a proposed interreligious council at the United Nations. Click on More for full text of statements.

H.E. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury
Former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
The UN Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace highlights the ideals, norms and objectives of a global culture of peace and identifies the actors involved in their realization. It has been an honor for me to chair the negotiations that led to the adoption of the Declaration and Program of Action. I will always treasure and cherish that. This has been a realization of my personal commitment to peace and my humble contribution to humanity. I consider this document as one of the most significant legacy of the United Nations that will endure for generations to come. It provides a clear set of guidelines for action. It is a universal document in the real sense, transcending boundaries, cultures, beliefs and societies. It identifies actors who have a role in advancing a culture of peace. In addition to states and international organizations like the United Nations, it includes religious and community leaders, parents, family, teachers, artists, professors, journalists and students—people from all walks of life. More

H.E. Dr. Ravan A. G. Farhadi
Former Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations
There is a growing intolerance among followers of different faiths, and resurgent religious and cultural prohibitions in various parts of the world. It will be impossible to reach any kind of culture of peace if we don't have religious understanding and harmony and cooperation. In the United Nations the Islamic countries drafted a text about religious and cultural understanding, harmony, and cooperation, not only for Islam but for all the religious of the world. This draft was improved in many stages, and countries who are not Muslim countries joined in sponsoring the text. There must be respect for religious beliefs and acceptance of cultural diversity, which is very important. And this should contribute to world peace, social justice, and friendship among peoples in the international order and the elimination of ideologies or practices of discrimination, intolerance, and hatred. So religious and cultural diversity in this increasingly globalizing world could be used as a vehicle for complementary creativity and dynamism. I think it is not only useful, but it may start a cooperation and harmony among different religions. It may be the start of a new dynamism in favor of the lives of humans on the earth.

Syed Shadid Husain
Senior Advisor, Organization of the Islamic Conference to the United Nations
Looking back in retrospect over the past fifty-six years since the adoption of the Charter of the United Nations, one sees that in the face of great strides in scientific and technological progress and productivity, the giants of poverty, deprivation, illness, disease, illiteracy, and insecurity still remain at large, promoting inequity, polarization, distrust, and fear among the “haves” and “have-nots.” This is so because the most important element, which would have effectively advocated and promoted peace, harmony, and sharing of gains, was missing. This was the spiritual or religious element, which is capable of serving as the last restraint on earthly power and last solace of earthly misery. Its basic teachings, namely that we of the human race are brothers unto one another if only because we are the embodiment of one and the same Holy Spirit into which we eventually return, gives to us a sense of inner belonging, sympathy, compassion, qualities that make us truly human. Absent from the Charter of the United Nations was the important mandate that would have motivated and reminded the believers of all faiths of their duty toward one another, and toward other nations, and called for policies and programs that would protect and promote the interest of all human beings on earth. Today the need for this is more important than ever before. More

Hon. Francis Kwain
Former Deputy Minister of External Relations, Cameroon
It is imperative that we understand the barriers that divide races, religions, nationalities, and cultures as we search for these solutions. Only through understanding the root of conflict can we direct our resources into the best programs and make the sustainable changes that are needed. I believe it is only when governments, religions and the United Nations come together under one roof that this first and most important step toward true world peace can be realized. More

Dr. Isaac C. Lamba
Former Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations
Professor Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard University is said to have cited three major problems in the world today: the gap between the rich and the poor, nuclear weapons that threaten security, and discrimination focused on religion, race, gender and other divisions. All of these the United Nations and its agencies are supposed to address. The peace council idea introduces novelty and creativity in the search for peace with a fundamental base in religious convictions. Peace without a religious conception and foundation cannot be sustained to form the desired culture. More

Ambassador D. L. Mendis
Former Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
At the international level, good governance is associated with the reform of the UN Charter and UN agencies in order to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. It also deals with global economic and social threats and challenges such as abject poverty, disease, armed conflicts, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, corruption, narcotic drugs and organized crime. In dealing with threats and challenges, the UN has not been successful. Good governance cannot be achieved without effective implementation of UN treaties. This is still the Achilles heel, despite many efforts undertaken by states, intergovernmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Implementation can also be enriched through the application of interreligious values. All over the world, politicians and diplomats have acted more on national or individual self-interest and not on core interreligious values. Hence, it is of paramount importance to incorporate interreligious values such as fairness, equity, merit, justice, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, good faith, trust, reconciliation and living for the sake of others into the principles of good governance to achieve lasting peace in the world. Only then can we avoid a clash of civilizations, religions or ethnicities and avoid conflict, poverty and underdevelopment. More

H.E. Ousmane Moutari
Permanent Representative of the Republic of Niger to the United States
Some of the initiatives taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference countries in the United Nations are very important and offer another example of how in the United Nations it is possible to talk about religion and draw from religion ideas that can help us achieve progress, such as the concept of a dialogue among civilizations. It is possible to come to a kind of consensus on religious issues—a consensus that was not possible 20 years ago when we were living in a world divided between East and West. This is another example that there is still a slow evolution of mentality toward integrating religious aspects of life in all our work for the promotion of human endeavors. More

Dr. Guillermo Reyes
Former Counselor, Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations
We live in an era when cultural, religious, civilizational, and ethical identities and values are deeply fundamental and relevant to understanding the global situation. One reason for establishing an interreligious council in the world's most important political and governmental forum, the United Nations, is to support and implement this great and historical institution's capacities to address and resolve the root causes of conflict and to assist in the search for solutions to critical worldwide problems. Dialogue among cultures and civilizations is also an invitation to countries, governments, and religions, and suggest a new worldwide political system where all religions and cultures may work together as one whole family without division, hate or violence. The preamble of the UN Charter affirms, "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security." And definitely through an interreligious council, a union of strength can be fully achieved. More

Mr. Zia Rizvi
Director General, Independent Bureau for Humanitarian Issues, Pakistan
When I joined the UN, I thought the UN was the voice of the voiceless. It was supposed to provide power to the powerless. In time, I realized that it can also be a tool for the powerful to play power games. I believe that an interreligious council can be a counterbalancing force to bring into the United Nations a new dimension, which might perhaps bring more sense, more humanity to politicians. The Constitution of the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, says: "Since war first begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defenses of peace should be constructed." The approach that is now being adopted is geared to man and to his mind and not to weapons and war. Peace is not just absence of conflict. Peace is solid and durable when peace is born inside the mind of man. Therefore, with the approach now being adopted, which is to work on men's mind's with God's guidance, you will build peace very differently from the way we have been trying to do it for the last century. This is a noble task that certainly deserves support. More

Dr. Alwi Shihab
Special Envoy to the Middle East, Office of the President, Republic of Indonesia
This call for the UN to move forward to acquire a spiritual dimension is timely at this critical moment. The current unpleasant condition of the world serves as solid evidence of the need for such reform in the UN. More

Hon. Richard Thornburgh
Former UN Under-Secretary-General
I'm intrigued by the notion of creating a religious base for a culture of peace because one of the ultimate tragedies of this century, and indeed throughout history, has been the number of wars and conflicts that have been undertaken in the name of one religion or another. By involving people of faith and the faith communities in efforts to create a true culture of peace, one goes to the source of a lot of the conflict and discontent in the world today.

H.E. Yuli M. Vorontsov

Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and High-Level Coordinator
We need meetings of the religious leaders, congresses of religious leaders, where they will discuss not their differences in doctrine but the world situation. I don't think there will be serious differences of view when the topic is war and peace in a given region or peace on the planet or the global ecological crisis. I believe that these issues are very important for religions. More

H.E. Makarim Wibisono

Former Permanent Representative of Indonesia to the United Nations, Former President of ECOSOC
The role of religion in promoting peace and harmony cannot be overemphasized. The continuous process of sharing and learning from one another serves the interests of all people of all ethnicities, cultures, and historical backgrounds. We all share a belief in universal truths and in a moral order ordained by God and discovered -- not created -- by man. That shared conviction often translates into ideas of how to improve our societies. Religious leaders are in a unique position to come into contact at grass-roots level of the societies they serve and inculcate the values of tolerance, harmony and forbearance. As messengers of peace, they often succeed in spreading this gospel more than governments. At a time when concerted efforts under multilateral auspices have not made substantive progress for a durable peace, it is significant that religious leaders, together with statesmen, diplomats, scholars and professionals, gather to exchange views and experiences on ways to seek a better and more harmonious world. There is indeed much that can be accomplished if people belonging to all faiths can embark upon a path together for improving the lives of human beings all over the world, for religions have a common responsibility to serve humanity — and not be served by humanity. More

For additional background materials on the proposal for an interreligious council at the UN, click here.

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