Interfaith Peacebuilding


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Interfaith Programs

Conference in Siberia on the Role of Religion and Human Rights

Novosibirsk, Russia - A conference on "The role of religion in protecting human rights and dignity towards a common culture of peace" related to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the twentieth anniversary of the Russian Federation Constitution took place in Novosibirsk on Dec. 14, 2013. The event was initiated by UPF-Russia.

The conference began with videos about the history of the Russian Federation’s Constitution and Human Rights Declaration. Dmitry Oficerov, head of UPF-Siberia, gave a presentation on universal ethical principles as the basis for human rights and dignity. He noted the growing gap between human rights and morality as a consequence of ignoring religion and the Creator of universal human rights. "We must always remember that the Creator endowed us with rights, which have been gradually established by decree. For our life to be a success, we must be guided by moral laws as well as natural laws. Let us defend the rights of others, promote spiritual, moral and unifying leadership, based on universal values, strengthen families and recognize God as the human rights defender. By encouraging mutual understanding, respect and cooperation between peoples, religions and cultures and by supporting the family as a school of love and peace, we are creating the basis for free and peaceful human development."

The head of the Center for Spiritual Development, Margarita Vladovskaya, drew the attention of the audience to the fact that the external always reflects the internal; this means that the situation in the world depends on the level of human consciousness. In her understanding, it is necessary to revive the culture of spiritual consciousness. The word 'religion' has two meanings: first of all, it is a system of dogmas and rituals of worship, and secondly, it is life principles and norms of behavior. All religions attach particular importance to education in universal moral values such as purity, humility, respect and responsibility. Remembering the Creator and how He as our Father views us will help us remain tolerant when dealing with another person who is in some way different from us. Such understanding will help us not only to coexist but also to interact with one another, making a positive contribution to the development of the world. Without it, there will be no sense of brotherhood, because brotherhood is impossible without an awareness of Heavenly Father’s presence. We all expect love and respect from each other. As we manifest that to all people, we will feel the atmosphere around us changing and becoming more spiritual.

Pedagogical University Associate Professor and PhD candidate Andrey Kharlamov, while acknowledging human rights in the religious traditions of the peoples of Russia, said that the Buddhist (Mahayana) traditions advocate the idea of human salvation by the efforts of the Bodhisattva, the enlightened one who refuses to accept nirvana in order to save all sentient beings. Hindu tradition exalts not only the rights of human beings but those of any creature, giving rise to the notion of ahimsa, a principle of behavior and practice where the first requirement is to do no harm; Mahatma Gandhi promoted non-violence, which formed part of the basis for the modern human rights. Judaism proclaims the important idea that when you save one person you are saving the world. In Christianity the leading idea is that of sacrifice. Islam, in its early development, formulated the basic values ​​of human rights; previously, in the Arab world of the seventh century, newborn girls were considered to have no value.

He reminded the audience that at the Nuremberg trials, the Nazis claimed that they lived according to the law of the Third Reich and did not feel any regret. The only counter argument was that they violated the universal law, the origin of which contains the idea of ​​personal and inalienable human rights which human beings received from God or from nature. He noted that Novosibirsk has become a center of religious life. Since Siberia has hosted many exiled and evacuated people, Siberians tend to have a tolerant nature, and in Novosibirsk there are about 200 religious organizations. The Constitution needs to be nurtured and protected, but the main thing is to understand the provisions of the Constitution and to know the basis of its provisions and the historical experience of wars and conflicts in order to transfer this knowledge to the younger generation. He called people to remember that the very concept of human rights grew out of religious norms.

The president of the Siberian Academy for Traditional Folk Cultures, R.P. Zvereva, shared her vision that religious freedom opens the way for optimal standard of behavior.

The chief information officer of the House for National Cultures, Oleg Gorbulev, predicted that advances in the information revolution will impact many institutions of the church and state. One consequence of this may be inability of most of the population to correlate the information coming from the outside and the information coming from the heart. Thus there will be an increasing role for religious and philosophical figures capable of bringing the dimensions of the mind and heart into harmony.

He expressed concern about the disharmony among nonprofit organizations and urged NGO representatives to pay more attention to the autonomous national associations of the city and support them, for example, by conducting seminars on public concerns.

Vadim B. Borisov from the Society for Krishna Consciousness emphasized the importance of interfaith dialogue importance as a basis for protecting human rights. For harmonious interaction we need a common platform that transcends confessional differences, he said. Indeed, dialogue is always difficult if people stick to only their own religious principles without taking into account the diversity in society. A broader vision and unity of purpose will help all problems. Neither tolerance nor any law against extremism could unite people; only God Himself can help people overcome conflicts, including not only spiritual but also ideological, when people rise to the level of love. In support of this thesis he cited Mahatma Gandhi's motto: "Unity in diversity."

In conclusion, ​​Evgenii Bryndin, head of the public movement Moral Russia, drew attention to the concept of spiritual law. "Without God we can scarcely protect human rights. Education of heart is needed, because the true desire to unite arises in one’s heart."

Participants congratulated the Universal Peace Federation in Novosibirsk on the good results of three years work, and expressed a desire to continue collaboration.

UPF considers the unity of the global human family as a necessary foundation for promotion of human rights, and calls for greater spiritual awareness and personal responsibility. Thus, human rights are not only secured by laws and supported by the power of public authorities, but also by understanding of our global solidarity that we are one human family, brothers and sisters who share the common spiritual and moral heritage. It is highly important to have respect for diversity, human rights, and equal dignity in relations between religions and peoples through intercultural dialogue and peace initiatives.

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