UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi was the keynote speaker at the 13 July graduation ceremony for 50 participants from all corners of the globe at the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva.
He spoke before the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam and the WCC general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, handed the peacemakers certificates.
“Make sure you see the world clinically not cynically,” said Grandi. “That is the only way to survive as peacemakers.”
He said it is time to look at what the young peacemakers can do better than his generation in some important arenas.
“Every year, almost every 10 months, we have a new major crisis, adding itself to the previous ones without the previous ones being resolved,” said Grandi.
“I lead an organization that deals with 110 million refugees, and displaced people around the world—people that are forced out of their homes away often from their family, their friends, their jobs, their schools, by conflict by persecution, by discrimination, human rights violations.
“And of course, you know, when today I speak about it, everybody thinks of Ukraine but this is only one crisis. There are crises all over the world that cry out for help and resolution and get very little of both,” said Grandi.
He said the 110 million people are examples of the leaders’ failure to make peace, uphold human rights, and have respect for each other.
“So, we need peacemakers,” said Grandi.
Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders thanked the WCC’s Pillay for his work for the second forum and also the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for backing the first forum in 2018. He also thanked the United Arab Emirates for sending a “high-level delegation.”
Abdelsalam told the graduates who came from all over the world, “You are the ones who will lead the future.
“There is no conclusion to our forum. This is the start of a reincarnation for all of you. Please be proud, of yourselves, all of you,” he said noting that the 50 participants were chosen from more than 1,000 applicants from more than 75 countries around the world.
The judge said the first forum was held in London, the second in Geneva, and there would be another one.
“Religion is an expression of human nature, which God has created. It is a nature that does not cause conflict or hatred,” said Abdelsalam. “So be very aware and careful and cautious against any person that uses religion to ignite any sectarian or racial conflicts….God bless you and we will continue.”
Abdelsalam urged the emerging peacemakers to be cautious of individuals, institutions, organizations, and entities that exploit religion for their own political, economic, or religious agendas. He m emphasized that religion is an expression of human nature, far removed from violence, extremism, wars, conflicts, and intimidation. He pointed that circumstances and ideologies adopted by certain entities are the primary instigators of such actions, which exploit religion as a cover for their shadowy agendas.
In his speech, Abdelsalam called upon the graduates to continue their journey as peacemakers, highlighting that they have the right to be proud and confident in their ability to create peace. He expressed the Muslim Council of Elders' keenness, under the chairmanship of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the esteemed members of the council, to establish a genuine partnership with the graduates in order to promote peace worldwide.
WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay said it was a “privilege, a joy, and pleasure” to welcome all those who are graduating. “We have treasured the time we’ve had together in these two weeks,” he said. “It’s a special day for those who have been though the programme.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was unable to attend the ceremony and his message was read out by Rev. Dr Richard Sudworth, his secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs.
“As Christians, Jews, Muslims, curiosity assumes that we do not know everything about the other. In fact, the changes of our modern world mean that the realities of being a religious person in any one context are likely to look very different in other contexts,” said Welby who played a key role in the first Emerging Peacemakers Forum.
“The internet means that there is no longer, if ever there was, a one-size-fits-all way of being a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew,” said Welby. “Being a Pentecostal Christian of Nigerian descent living in London will look different to being a white Anglican working class Christian in the city of Bradford. Whether you are a man or woman, Jewish or Muslim, different traditions and cultures are mixing and shaping our lived realities.”
Welby urged the peacemakers to be curious.
“Muslims in the UK, for example, are fashioning a very British way of being Muslim, because it is their home. Some of the most vibrant Christian communities in the UK right now, the growing younger churches, are British-Nigerian and British-Chinese. And the Christians of North Africa and the Middle East are the most ancient Christian communities in the world and rooted firmly in these lands," he said.
“How we are attentive to the complexities of lived faith today demands that we be curious.”