“The promotion of peace is at the core of our sacred teachings and therefore a condition we endeavor to achieve”, said Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) to the United Nations, during the Third Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs, held at the UN headquarters, in New York, on 23 January.
The focus of this edition was on fostering just, inclusive and sustainable peace.
The event, organized by the WCC, the United Methodist Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, highlighted different perspectives on the topic and examined issues that can contribute to promoting just and sustainable peace, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or inhibiting just and sustainable peace, including in settings where there are lingering conflicts and endemic poverty.
The symposium was held in partnership with the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force for Engagement with Faith-based Organizations and the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations.
Two case studies were presented, namely Colombia and the Philippines, with an assessment of how their respective peace processes have addressed the promotion of a just peace, the cessation of hostilities and steps towards achieving sustainable peace.
“There is great potential for peacemaking in the nature of who we are. Churches together are well-placed for collective action in a world where the major threats to peace can only be resolved cooperatively”, said de Faria, who represented the WCC at the event.
As the promotion of peace is the desired outcome of most faith based organizations’ work, the event brought together several organizations that partner with diverse entities of the United Nations, both at the global and grassroots level.
The list of keynote speakers of the event included Adama Dieng, United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide; Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser for Peace Process, Republic of the Philippines; Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church; and Ulrich Nitschke, head of Sector Programme Values, Religion and Development at GIZ/Germany and head of the International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) Secretariat, among others (full list of speakers below).
They were given an opportunity to speak about the work they are doing to promote peace and security, human rights and sustainable development, with the ultimate purpose of improving people’s lives.
Peaceful societies in which human rights are respected and development thrives are also more resilient to atrocity crimes. These societies are those in which respect for “the other” is more developed and therefore resilience to identity-based violence is stronger.
This symposium was the third in a series. In January 2015, the theme was “Human Dignity and Human Rights.” In February 2016, the organizers focused on “Religion, Violence and Extremism”.
These first two symposiums were followed by several events that focused on related issues, including on prospects for peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the Philippines, human trafficking and the refugee and migrant crisis. In relation to the latter, WCC in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, KAICIID Dialogue Center, Malta Institute of Security and Democracy and the governments of Spain and Italy organized a high level side event in September 2016 in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly on forced migration and human trafficking.
The journey of consultations between these faith-based organizations and the United Nations underlines a continuity of partnership, informs cumulative knowledge, builds the trust required to influence critical policy decisions, and secures important conceptual and practical linkages between the diverse facets of peace and the Sustainable Development Goals.
For Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, the symposium “was a unique opportunity to deepen discussion on concrete things that make for peace, as well as those that inhibit peace. It addressed cooperation among faith-based organizations, member states, civil society, and international and regional organizations, including the United Nations, in fostering just, inclusive and sustainable peace”, he concluded.