Filippo Grandi

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.


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 leadersfailure to make peace, uphold human rights, and have respect for each other.

EPF2 participants

Some of the young peacemakers celebrate after the graduation ceremony. 


Peacemakers needed 

So, we need peacemakers,” said Grandi.

Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders thanked the WCCs 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.

Treasured time

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 weve had together in these two weeks,” he said. Its 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.”

Watch the graduation ceremony

Photo gallery of the graduation ceremony

Photo gallery of the Emerging Peacemakers Forum 2023

Learn more about the Emerging Peacemakers Forum

"Ethics leader quotes Mandela's maxim of transforming an enemy into a partner at Peacemakers Forum" - WCC feature story 13 July 2023

"Muslim Council of Elders says peacemakers conference to empower young people" - WCC news release 12 July 2023

"Middle East parliamentarian warns young Christian, Jewish, and Muslim peacemakers of social media hazards" - WCC news release 12 July 2023

Media invited to attend Emerging Peacemakers Forum graduation ceremony  - WCC media advisory 11 July 2023

"Young peacemakers visit UN, WCC Ecumenical Centre in Geneva" - WCC news release 10 July 2023

"Participants at the Emerging Peacemakers Forum send a message of hope to COP28" - WCC news release 9 July 2023

"Vigilance needed to avoid likes of Rwanda genocide, war in Ukraine, says UN adviser" - WCC feature story 9 July 2023

"For spiritual nourishment, 'practise humanity,' says Mama Shamsa" - WCC feature story 8 July 2023

"Peace is not a given these days, but keep talking, says daughter of Holocaust survivor" - WCC feature story 7 July 2023

"Young Christians, Jews, and Muslims begin a peace-building journey" - WCC news release 6 July 2023

EPF2 cake ceremony

From left to right: Rev. Dr Richard Sudworth, Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Prof. Rev. Dr Simone Sinn, dean at the WCC's Bossey Ecumenical Institute, H.E. Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders, and Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, WCC General secretary.