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N. Grabus: Existing Institutions Have Not Done Enough

Paper presented at a Summit of World Leaders, “The World at a Turning Point: A Global Vision of Peace and Good Governance,” Seoul, Korea, August 11-16, 2003.

Interreligious meetings are being held in many places around the world. Many religious and spiritual leaders petition journalists to cover meetings in which they are trying to find solutions to the world’s problems and to contribute to a developing interreligious and intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. The idea of organizing an interreligious council at the UN is a significant and unique attempt to develop a relationship between the religious community and the United Nations.

But despite the support given to that idea by different politicians, prime ministers, and presidents of states, the attitude of the UN as a whole to the religious community remains uncertain. We have to be aware of this. In order to garner support for this proposal, proponents should be present from now on at interreligious meetings, whether at the national or international level.

There are many people who are against any cooperation and dialogue with others. We have to be aware of this problem. If we want to prevail against them, we have to be more active in this field. The commitment to global peace appeals to people of all religious traditions to cooperate in building peaceful societies, to seek mutual understanding through dialogue where there are differences, to refrain from violence, to practice compassion, and to uphold the dignity of all life.

The UN might point to the existence of established bodies such as the World Conference on Religion and Peace, an interreligious agency based at the church center for the UN, directly across the street from its New York headquarters. But existing institutions have not been enough, and they are not enough today. Many of us are thinking about how to respond to many interreligious initiatives that are taking place. There is a growing push for action in this area, and we are holding in depth conversation on this subject. National interreligious councils could be founded to show the way and lend support to the idea of establishing an interreligious council at the UN.

Why is it so important to promote and support this proposal? Many of us have been witnesses to antireligious movements in society, especially under communist regimes. Even today we have many problems with that mentality. An interreligious council will not discuss theological problems but will strongly support cultural dialogue, peaceful coexistence, and mutual understanding. The world cannot exist without dialogue and interreligious cooperation. Let us support this great idea.

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