By Jonathan Gallagher, Ph.D.

New York, NY, USA [December 16, 2008] Representatives from the United Nations and religious leaders met together with non-government organizations in New York Tuesday to promote greater cooperation between the UN and religious groups worldwide.  The intent in the words of the organizers is "to explore new ways and means to advance cooperation between the world's religious communities and the United Nations."

In his welcome, Dr Sunggon Kim, a Korean MP and permanent director of the International Peace Corps of Religions, said that "religion is all about peace within, politics is about peace on the outside. To create wholesome peace we need cooperation between religion and politics. The UN should play the role of a good father in the global family, while interfaith organizations should play the role of good mother. We need to advance cooperation."

Giving the keynote address, Dr. William Vendley, secretary general of Religions for Peace, identified three main reasons for cooperation between the UN and religions: peace is a common concern of both governments and religions; religions have assets for peace-building; and there is already a revolution of cooperation among different religions around the world. "Religions are not just made up of wonderful people carrying buckets to put out a fire," he said, but could effectively make a great difference in society. "Religious communities are learning to become bilingual," he noted, meaning that they were developing the ability to speak another religion's language. What was needed, he conclude, were "principled partnerships between religions, governments, and the United Nations."

Other speakers for religious groups agreed. "All religious teachings have a positive role in building peace among individuals and institutions as we put people first above all other things," commented Ven. Hyun-Jong, director of research at the Institute for Buddhist Studies in Korea. "Faith communities are here to stay, and are sometimes more trusted than governments," noted Mrs Helen Grace Wangusa, Anglican representative to the UN, and detailed many examples of Christian contributions to peace-building. Dr. Sayyid Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America emphasized the need for tolerance and mutual respect, saying that "true respect between religions is to respect one another's beliefs and practices diversity is a manifestation of our Creator's will." Consequently, "religions must recognize truth," and produce "a new message for a new millennium," he said.

Many other contributors noted the major shift in attitudes towards religion at the UN. "There's a growing realization in the United Nations of the role of religion in promoting peace in the widest sense," commented Mrs. Judith Hertz, co-chair of the Commission on Inter-religious Affairs of Reformed Judaism.  "It's a sea-change, a paradigm shift at the UN," added Rev. Chris Ferguson, the World Council of Churches representative to the UN. Dr. Azza Karam, Senior Culture Advisor at the UN Population Fund looked for "issue-based strategic alliances" between UN agencies and religious organizations, while Ms. Liza Barrie, chief of Civil Society Partnerships at UNICEF said that they had "long recognized the potential  for religious organizations to contribute to the welfare especially of children," and that "such work together can be practical, inspirational, and respective of different faiths."

The day conference , sponsored by the Korean government and organized by Religions for Peace and other peace-related organizations, brought together some 100 leaders from various sectors of society including government, religious groups, and UN agencies.

[Jonathan Gallagher]

 

 
 

14 Comments

  1. kristan says:

    I think this is a good idea. We need more unity in the world. Everybody would probably get along more, if they understood each others beliefs better.

  2. kristan says:

    I think this is a good idea. We need more unity in the world. Everybody would probably get along more, if they understood each others beliefs better.

  3. Eric says:

    If people started communicating and acceopting others instead of fighting and yelling about who is right and wrong, there would be a lot more peace in the world.

  4. Eric says:

    If people started communicating and acceopting others instead of fighting and yelling about who is right and wrong, there would be a lot more peace in the world.

  5. Matt Hoffman says:

    I think that this would be a very good idea. I hope that one of the focuses is to ensure that all religious leaders allow freedom for others to believe in their own religious convictions. Especially Muslim leaders in countries like Saudi Arabia that have outlawed Judaism, Christianity, and all other religions.

  6. Matt Hoffman says:

    I think that this would be a very good idea. I hope that one of the focuses is to ensure that all religious leaders allow freedom for others to believe in their own religious convictions. Especially Muslim leaders in countries like Saudi Arabia that have outlawed Judaism, Christianity, and all other religions.

  7. Rita says:

    This is wonderful news to read, the UN and religions meeting. Another step in the direction of world peace. Also, I really like how the Korean MP described the relationship between religion and politics. I found his explanation to be thought provoking and I concur with his thoughts.

  8. Rita says:

    This is wonderful news to read, the UN and religions meeting. Another step in the direction of world peace. Also, I really like how the Korean MP described the relationship between religion and politics. I found his explanation to be thought provoking and I concur with his thoughts.

  9. kat says:

    This is a wonderful concept ideally, but I don't agree that we shall ever have world peace. It is our religion that keeps us different. Face it, this has been the world as long as there has been people in it. I'm sure it started with Cain and Abel. I think we should spend more time in healing our own relationship with God and stop being so paranoid about everyone who is different from us.

  10. kat says:

    This is a wonderful concept ideally, but I don't agree that we shall ever have world peace. It is our religion that keeps us different. Face it, this has been the world as long as there has been people in it. I'm sure it started with Cain and Abel. I think we should spend more time in healing our own relationship with God and stop being so paranoid about everyone who is different from us.

  11. Ali Agins says:

    In ivory towers intellectuals can propose lofty ideals of everyone getting along. Nice idea. But the reality is completely different.

    On the ground in towns and villages there is where being different or belonging to a smaller group will bring on conflict.

    Every school has bullies. Countries experience either being the bully or being bullied. And it is true of religion too. The larger community of churches will often try to make the smaller community that is different come "back into the fold" or conform to the majority.

    This is how religion has worked for thousands of years.

    What might happen is the UN would search out for the majority religions of the world to take leadership roles and to seek to find a leader of such moral or numerical value to be the leader of a new ecumenical movement of churches with "shared values" to form a truly mega organization.
    Who would they look to?
    Dali Lama? Pope? or someone else?

    Making proposals and getting people to agree is only the beginning.
    You know how committees form. This is just on a grander scale. A committee always has to have a leader.

    Sounds like a world wide council of churches on a grander scale.

  12. Ali Agins says:

    In ivory towers intellectuals can propose lofty ideals of everyone getting along. Nice idea. But the reality is completely different.

    On the ground in towns and villages there is where being different or belonging to a smaller group will bring on conflict.

    Every school has bullies. Countries experience either being the bully or being bullied. And it is true of religion too. The larger community of churches will often try to make the smaller community that is different come "back into the fold" or conform to the majority.

    This is how religion has worked for thousands of years.

    What might happen is the UN would search out for the majority religions of the world to take leadership roles and to seek to find a leader of such moral or numerical value to be the leader of a new ecumenical movement of churches with "shared values" to form a truly mega organization.
    Who would they look to?
    Dali Lama? Pope? or someone else?

    Making proposals and getting people to agree is only the beginning.
    You know how committees form. This is just on a grander scale. A committee always has to have a leader.

    Sounds like a world wide council of churches on a grander scale.

  13. Mark Chipeur says:

    Great response Ali. You said it well – I am a little more concerned than your reasoned response sounds. It appears very sinister to me. Somehow a group of unelected, unaccountable people with the ability to influence military action will "advance cooperation."

    I am surprised at the number of "wonderful" responses too. Any time that an unaccountable (to anyone) bureaucracy decides that it will bring people together is setting up for a "one world order" society. That is truly scary.

  14. Mark Chipeur says:

    Great response Ali. You said it well – I am a little more concerned than your reasoned response sounds. It appears very sinister to me. Somehow a group of unelected, unaccountable people with the ability to influence military action will "advance cooperation."

    I am surprised at the number of "wonderful" responses too. Any time that an unaccountable (to anyone) bureaucracy decides that it will bring people together is setting up for a "one world order" society. That is truly scary.

 
 
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