Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine


RABI-UL-AWWAL / RABI - U - THANI
MAY 2004
Volume 17-05 No : 209
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Communal Harmony


Religions for Peace

Religions for Peace

Throughout history, religious differences have divided men and women from their neighbours and have served as justification for some of humankind's bloodiest conflicts. In the modern world, it has become clear that people of all religions must bridge these differences and work together, to ensure our survival and realize the vision of peace that all faiths share.

The World Conference of Religions for Peace is the largest international coalition of representatives from the world's great religions who are dedicated to achieving peace. Respecting cultural differences while celebrating our common humanity, Religions for Peace is active on every continent and in some of the most troubled places on earth, creating multi-religious partnerships that mobilise the moral and social resources of religious people to address their shared problems.

Paul H.Sherbow, Senior Researcher at World Conference of Religions of Peace was in Bangalore recently. He had stopped over here to meet prominent Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders in India. Paul spoke to Islamic Voice while in Bangalore.

What is the mission of the World Conference of Religions for Peace?

Religious communities are, without question, the largest and best-organised civil institutions in the world today, claiming the allegiance of billions of believers and bridging the divides of race, class and nationality. They are uniquely equipped to meet the challenges of our time: resolving conflicts, caring for the sick and needy, promoting peaceful co-existence among all peoples.

Religions for Peace helps these communities unleash their enormous potential for common action. Some of Religions for Peace's recent successes include mediating dialogue among warring factions in Sierra Leone; building a new climate of reconciliation in Bosnia and Kosovo; organising an international network of religious women's organisations and launching an extraordinary program to assist the millions of children affected by Africa's AIDS pandemic, the Hope for African Children Initiative.

The international headquarters of Religions for Peace relocated briefly to Geneva during the 1980s before returning to its current location in New York, in the Church Center of the United Nations.

Could you highlight the history of Religions for Peace?

The World Conference of Religions for Peace was founded in 1970 to provide leaders of the world's many religions with a forum in which they can share common concerns, address collective challenges, and express their hopes for the future. Since then, Religions for Peace has done just that, bringing together hundreds of key religious leaders every five years-most recently in Amman, Jordan, in 1999-for World Assemblies in which people of many faiths discuss the great issues of our time and affirm their shared commitment to multi-religious cooperation and common living.

The goals and agendas developed during these truly inspirational gatherings serve as a foundation for the everyday work of Religions for Peace around the world.

How often do the leaders meet?

Every five years, the World Conference of Religions for Peace gathers hundreds of leaders representing the world's great religions for meetings that offer a forum for sharing ideas and concerns about international affairs, as well as addressing political and social issues. Since the first World Assembly in October 1970, Religions for Peace has convened Assemblies on five continents, most recently in Amman, Jordan, in November 1999.

How fruitful have been these Assemblies?

Attendees leave the Assemblies with a renewed commitment to multi-religious dialogue and cooperation, and they leave Religions for Peace with an agenda for action that guides its activities for the next half-decade. That agenda is spelled out in the Declaration that emerges from each Assembly-a statement of principles that reflects the dedication of religious communities worldwide to peaceful co-existence and to addressing the challenges shared by all humankind. The 7th World Assembly in Jordan reflected the greater intensity with which Religions for Peace has worked to fulfill its mission in recent years. Held in the cradle of civilization on the cusp of the new millennium, the Assembly took as its theme "Action for Common Living." That commitment to action was in evidence throughout the Assembly's five days: from a first-ever gathering of 40 religious leaders from Southeastern Europe, representing all that region's major faiths, to a moving event featuring Sierra Leone's president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, and members of the Inter-Religious Council that had helped broker a peace agreement in the conflict that has torn that nation for a decade.

What is your mission in India?

I plan to travel to Lucknow, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad too. There I shall interact with many religious leaders -Muslims and Christians. I shall also visit many Muslim-run institutions and meet many intellectuals to see how we can work together towards communal harmony and peace across the globe.

Paul Sherbow can be reached at psherbow@WCRP.org.

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News Community Roundup Editorial Letters Trends Exclusive Communal Harmony Men, Missions and Machines Opinion People Track Guidelines Muslim Perspectives Children's Corner Community Initiative Quran Speaks to You Hadith Travelogue Religion Question Hour Rabi-ul-Awwal Our Dialogue Reflections All About Life Women in Islam Journey to Islam Time Off Ads & Ideas Matrimonial
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