8th Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs

The 8th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs, entitled "Mobilizing Moral Influence and Governance to End the Systemic Injustices of Racism, the legacy of Colonialism and Slavery", will be held virtually 8:00 – 12:30 EDT on Tuesday 25 January 2022. 

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This edition of the Symposium will focus on the urgent need to transform our world, exposing and redressing the systemic injustices of racism, colonialism and slavery that continue to pervade all aspects of society – local, national and international.  As a common table bringing together institutions of governance and of moral and cultural influence, it will explore how the lingering historical injustices shape the social inequalities that have been exposed by crises of global proportions including Covid-19.


Racism and concomitant concerns of racial discrimination and xenophobia, colonialism and redress for historic slavery, as well as ending modern-day forms of slavery have become highly topical. 

From the United Nations Security Council and Human Rights Council’s hearing from human rights and land defenders to movements against systemic injustices like Black Lives Matter to the recognition of graves of indigenous children, the world cannot ignore the history and necessity for changes in the systems that allowed and encouraged abuses to occur.

The International Decade for People of African Descent, which began in 2015, is drawing to a close.  2021 is the twentieth anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa.  And on September 21, 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres submitted his report ‘Our Common Agenda’ to the General Assembly which states that “New approaches to proactively support the participation in public affairs of those who have traditionally been marginalized, including minority and indigenous groups, are also necessary.”

When it comes to addressing the lingering transgenerational traumas of slavery, several remarkable projects have seen the day, including the UNESCO project “Healing the Wounds of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery”. There is also the multiplication of commissions for truth and reconciliation showing unprecedented determination and global mobilization to address the scourge of racism. The upcoming Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022 – 2032) will focus on indigenous language users’ human rights. These, and many more initiatives, all provide immediate occasions for faith-based organizations to partner with UN agencies to contribute to the healing of people and the planet, and of international relations. 

The 2022 edition of the Annual Symposium is promoted by:
World Council of Churches
United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)
United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue
Islamic Relief USA
ACT Alliance
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
United Religions Initiative
Soka Gakkai International


Moderators for the Day:
Ms Quinn Wonderlingcoordinator of the Church and Society's United Nations Ministry of the United Methodist Church USA
- Ms Audri Scott Williams, Spiritual Director of the Spiritual Enrichment Center in Dothan, USA

Welcome and Housekeeping
Outline of the purpose and agenda for the Symposium

Opening Session: Perspectives from the UN system, government and faith organisations on their work to increase the urgency and saliency of the issue and integrate efforts to overcome systemic injustices in their work

  • H.E. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide 
  • H.E. Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, High Representative of the UN Alliance of Civilizations 
  • Government Speaker (South Africa PR) (TBC) 
  • Ms. Diene Keita, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director for Programmes 
  • Dr. Azza Karam, General Secretary, Religions for Peace 
  • Mr. Rudelmar Bueno De Faria, ACT Alliance Secretary General 

Session 2: Deepening understanding of how pernicious and all-encompassing racism, and the legacy of colonialism and slavery remain today

Moderator:  Rabbi Burton Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary


  • Dr. Ganoune Diop, General Secretary, International Religious Liberty Association
  • Ms. Manjula Pradeep, Human rights activist and lawyer, Gujarat, India
  • Ms. Sara Hamood, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Ms. Hayley Ramsay-Jones, Representative to the UN, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Geneva
  • Prof. Dr. Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Professor, University of York, UK, and Head, WHO Collaborating Center for Global Health Histories 

Session 3:  Showcasing innovative experiences and concrete actions for positive change change throughout the international community

Moderator: Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock, World Communion of Reformed Churches


  • Representative of Costa Rica (TBC)
  • Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko, UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
  • Mr. Tahil Sharma, North America Regional Coordinator, United Religions Initiative (URI)
  • Ms. Ruth Messinger, former President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
  • Dr. Masiiwa Gunda, Programme Executive for Programmatic Responses on Overcoming Racism, World Council of Churches (WCC)
  • Ms. May Al Hassan, Historian, journalist and social justice artist


Session 4: Promoting policy recommendations and practical steps to strengthen partnerships among diverse stakeholders, including faith-based organizations, the UN System, and non-governmental entities in different regions.

The panel, conducted in a fireside chat format, will focus on how to turn our analyses about the historic injustices and legacies of slavery, colonialism and racism into effective campaigns for justice by faith-based and religious bodies and into public policies implemented by governments and multilateral bodies. 

Moderator: Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, President-Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations, and Assistant General Secretary for UN and International Affairs-General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church 


●    H.E. Francisco Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative, Mission of Portugal to the UN
●    Cooper Christiancy, Assistant to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
●    Ms. Audrey Kitagawa, Esq., Chair, Anti Racism Initiative, G20 Interfaith Forum
●    Ms. Vanessa Griddine-Jones, Esq., Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute
●    Dr. Abbas Barzegar, Director, The Horizon Forum at the Proteus Fund
●    Dr. Abubakar Kabwogi, Founding Secretary General, Africa Council of  Religious Leaders

Questions from the audience

Concluding Remarks 

Drawing from the Symposium discussions, highlighting key points and recommendations to end the systemic injustices of racism, the legacy of colonialism and slavery

  • Ms Quinn Wonderling and Ms Audri Scott Williams, Symposium Moderators
  • Dr Ryan Smith, World Council of Churches, chair of the Symposium Planning Group
  • TBC, UN Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development

Learn more about the 8th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs