Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

Political Leaders Voice Support for an Interreligious Council at the UN

Voices in support of an interreligious council at the UN by members of parliament and government officials

Hon. Isidro Q. Aligada
Chairman of the Oversight Center for Office of Foreign Affairs; Office of the Speaker, Philippines

Global governance will only be successful if each of the thousands of cultures and traditions and religions of the world is given freedom to grow and be respected. A system of world government must be imbued with tolerance. Our presence together gives a strong signal that, as God has ordained, He must be the central focus of all of our efforts. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael and the God of all the nations whose various cultures and traditions will indeed be transcended in His own time. With an interreligious council, the future of the United Nations is well assured.

Hon. Jose de Venecia, Jr.
Former Speaker, House of Representatives, Republic of the Philippines

To my mind, the time has also come to deepen the United Nations' commitment to these dialogues by installing a council for inter-faith, inter-civilizational, and inter-cultural dialogue in the United Nations' system. Such a council would initiate, facilitate and manage dialogues between religions, cultures and civilizations wherever they are called for by circumstances — at the global, regional, national or local levels. More

Hon. Benjamin Gilman
Former U.S. Congressman, New York

The United States Institute for Peace published a report entitled, "Healing the Holy Land, Interreligious Peace Building in Israel/Palestine." It was done by one of their scholars, Yehezkel Landau. It reads, "Politicians and diplomats need to understand that religion can be a force for rebuilding rather than conflict," and went on to state, "religious leaders from throughout the Middle East, backed by counterparts in other parts of the world, need to meet more frequently to develop common agendas for peacemaking and to demonstrate that making sacrifices for peace is a religious obligation." A religious obligation. Interreligious harmony is an imperative in our world today. I understand that the proposal to establish an interreligious council is an effort to provide a model of governance, a model that will involve leaders from around the world and from all fields. They will work together by centering on core moral and spiritual principles and by committing themselves to go beyond barriers of race, religion, and nationality. They will be able to seek solutions to our world's critical problems. The world needs examples of interreligious and international cooperation in leadership.

Hon. David Kilgour, JD
Former Member of Parliament, former Secretary of State, Canada

On the recent events near Gaza, if a U.N. inter-religious council had been in place, might it have diffused the situation and perhaps prevented the loss of lives? Probably not, but the tragedy does appear at one level to underline again the religious-political underpinning of many world conflicts today. A well-functioning interreligious council could address this reality wherever there is a need, perhaps setting in place mechanisms to keep conflicts from escalating to the Gaza level. More generally, it could improve the level of inter-religious dialogue across the world. More

Dr. Andrey Igorevich Lebedev
Office of the Commissioner on Human Rights, Russia

The Middle East, the former Yugoslavia, and Northern Ireland are all examples of places where interreligious and interethnic strife have triumphed over the desire to make peace. And the only resolution to these conflicts is, of course, finding ways to establish peace. It is an idea welcomed by Russia, which is a multinational and multi-religious country. Our people do not want the experience of the former Yugoslavia to be repeated in our territory. How can we promote the idea of international and interreligious peace? Discussion about an interreligious council at the United Nations proposes dialogue among major leaders in religion, politics, NGOs and academia. I would like to add human rights ombudsmen. An ombudsman is an independent and politically neutral authority who is a moral authority as well. If such authorities were involved in this dialogue, I think the outcome would bring more positive results and bring them more quickly.

Hon. Julio Ruben Ledesma
Member of the Senate, Argentina
Argentinians wish to see a united Latin America. Asians wish to see a united Asia, Europeans a united Europe, and so on. But we can unite the world only if we work together and if we are able to ally politics with religion, which involves moral, spiritual, and ethical values. That is why we want to establish an interreligious council at the United Nations to work with political leaders to achieve world peace.

Prof. Oleg Mironov
Former Commissioner of Human Rights, Russian Federation
The Russian government has developed new democratic organizations, including commissioners for human rights, or ombudsmen, who have been called to protect the rights and interests of the people throughout all of the Russian territories. When critical conflict situations arise, we meet at the appropriate borders. Such was the case when I visited the Russo-Polish border, along with my Polish colleague, or the Ukraine-Russia border. This was also the case when I had to aid Russian citizens in Lithuania. There were two ships docked for three years without receiving payment, and with the help of my colleagues, rather than governmental organizations or diplomats, we succeeded in resolving this situation. In a different situation, there were difficulties with the transit of Russian citizens through Lithuania to the Kaliningrad region, a part of the Russian Federation that is separated from the main country by other states. Therefore, my colleagues and I have prepared a document entitled, "A Code of Actions of the Commissioner in Extreme Critical Situations." The commissioners for human rights of different countries act in accordance with it when there is a need for intervention. We will do all that is possible to make an interreligious council one of the organizations that reports to the UN. We must follow the principles of discussion, adapting decisions, taking action, and achieving specific results.

Hon. Dorothy Motubase
Member of Parliament, South Africa

In 1994 our country adopted a policy called the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). This program was to cut across all departments and build the infrastructure for the community. In the process of implementing it was came across many problems and corruption. In 1996, in reviewing these problems, the then head of state, Dr. Nelson Mandela, said, "We need RDP of the soul." In April 2001, South Africa launched a Moral Regeneration Movement. This movement consists of religious and community leaders and is located in the office of the deputy president. Section 185 of our Constitution allows the establishment of a religious and linguistic commission, which brings different leaders from all walks of life and faith to interact with government at the local level. In our view it is important to embrace all faiths.

Dr. Viorel Priscari
Member, Moldovan Parliament; President, Moldovan Association against AIDS

In the transition between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the world is facing a dangerous social phenomenon: social conflict caused by interreligious strife. One recalls the conflict between Al Qaeda and the United States, between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, between various groups in the Far East, the Chechen problem in Russia, the Karabakh situation in Azerbaijan, and the interreligious conflict in Yugoslavia that broke the country apart. More than interethnic conflicts, conflicts on religious grounds are sensitive and unpredictable, and therefore very dangerous. The idea of finding peace through cooperation among religious is a most ingenious idea. I am sure it will become the starting point for great developments.

Hon. Valery Sakharov
Chief Advisor of the Russian Federation State Committee on UNESCO Affairs

The proposal for creating a council in the United Nations to address issues of religious cooperation can only be implemented successfully as a product of consequential and enduring efforts on the part of all members of the world community. There must be instituted a sufficiently solid pyramid structure which would facilitate dialogue and interaction both among multinational religious faiths and among religiously pluralistic nations and regions. The first steps of such a nature have been taken within the Commonwealth of Independent States. Upon the initiative of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Administration of Caucasian Muslims, preparations have begun to propose an interfaith body of the Commonwealth of Independent States. This new forum will enable us to begin a much-needed process of interreligious dialogue in the name of peace in post-Soviet territory.

Hon. Ana Catalina Soberanis Reyes
Minister of Peace, Office of the President, Republic of Guatemala

There is a common understanding that whoever has power exercises it for their own benefit. Therefore, for the United Nations to function properly we need an equal body that is able to look after the interests of the whole of humanity as opposed to the interests of each individual state or each individual. If the voices for peace and the voices for love can come together and confront the strong voices of war and belligerence and are able to work together and echo each other's sentiments and feelings, and if they are effective in their work for peace, they can confront with a wave of military might that projects itself as the only possible solution to the problems of the world.

Sir Peter Tapsell
Speaker of the House, New Zealand (1993-96)

By its very nature, the UN makes no provision for views of the major religions or cultural groups, and in nearly every major conflict religious and cultural differences have been paramount. An interreligious council at the UN composed of representatives of the major religious and cultural groups would ensure that the UN can fulfill a wider and hopefully more successful role in dealing with international and even intra-national disputes.

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