three woemn in an interreligious panel

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

A panel explored together the theme Women Sowing the Seeds of Peace and Cultivating Encounter.”

Rudina Collaku, executive director of the Women's Centre for Development and Culture in Albania, spoke about preventing extremism among youth. 

She noted that deaths from terrorism are increasing, and urged people to work with youth to make a difference. 

Youth make up 1.2 billion people, or 16% of the global population, and they can be particularly vulnerable to the messages of terrorists and extremist organizations,” she said. We have carried out a number of projects, notably initiatives that engage youth in preventing violent extremism.”

She recommended helping young people engage through advocacy—and also simply helping them get to school each day. 

It is your responsibility to make sure young people have the necessary means and opportunities to fully participate in daily life,” she said. This requires a commitment to education, empowerment, and inclusion.”

Rev. Elena Seishin Viviani, vice president of the Italian Buddhist Union, reflected on the role of meditation in promoting peace.

Sometimes, people think of meditation as mindfulness,” she said. Its a notion that was also introduced as a practice in health activities in hospices, and in hospitals, but also in prisons as well."

Meditation should never be separated from action, she urged. Action and the acts of solidarity that open us to others are necessary consequences of meditation and concentration,” she said.

Svamini Hamsananda Ghiri, vice president of the Italian Hindu Union, spoke about intercultural dialogue.

She noted that International Womens Day is a time to honor the social, cultural, economic, and political results achieved by women. But Ghiri also noted there is much work ahead.

The Hindu woman is often seen as a woman who is suffering—but this is not true,” she said. This is what happens in the general vision of women.”

She reflected that, in some ancient societies, women were revered—but this has changed for some women over the course of history. 

Women must not give up or forget the power of the educational element which is developed in the nucleus or core, which is the family,” she said. It is there, within the family, where first and foremost, women can exert the possibility of passing on the values of equality, respect, and spiritual values.”

Acknowledging that people are struggling  to reach these outcomes, Ghiri closed with a prayer that read, in part, Nobody is a foreigner. The world is an entire family.” 

Rabbi Allyson Zacharoff, from the Congregation Beth Hatikvah in Summit, New Jersey, USA, spoke on inter-religious dialogue and mediation among university students.

She noted that being a minority is a challenge for many Jewish university students. What this means is that, in interfaith dialogue on campuses, there are fewer of us to share our perspectives,” she said. 

Since 7 October 2023, a sense of hope has become more difficult to attain, Zacharoff said. 

So much of the dialogue has turned into all one or all the other,” she said. 

Rev. Dr Kuzipa Nalwamba, WCC programme director for Unity, Mission, and Ecumenical Formation, talked about women members and leaders of Christian communities collaborating in peace processes.

She noted that the World Day of Prayer, which was observed on 1 March, was prepared this year by an ecumenical group of Palestinian women in response to the theme “I beg you…bear with one another in love.” 

Nalwamba reflected that the WCCs past resonates for the current times of war.

Issues of war have been a part of our history of the WCC in that the WCC was founded as a post-World War II institution parallel to the United Nations,” she said. As far as womens leadership at the formation of the WCC, we are only now beginning to tell their stories from their perspectives.”

Nalwamba gave examples of  Women in Palestine, Christian and Muslim women Liberia and Cross Women Cross DMZ in Korea, who though adversely affected by conflicts have become advocates for peace. We have stories of survivors who make a response to violence and build peace,” she said. 

Valeria Martano, from the Comunità di SantEgidio, explored the question: What does peace look like in times of war?”

"After many years, the world is facing very serious crises: too many wars,” she said. Right now there are 59 active conflicts in the world. Many are forgotten.”

And, in times of war, people seem to be forced to take a side, to find an enemy to hate, she said. 

This is happening also in our society,” she said. We hear the cry for peace from many. We dont know how long the night of war will last. But we know the morning will come.”


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