8th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs
Mobilizing Moral Influence and Governance to End the Systemic Injustices of Racism, the legacy of Colonialism and Slavery
25 January 2022
8:00 - 12:30 EDT
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.
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.
The Symposium also aims to contribute to a move towards healing and reconciling our world. It will identify solutions and concrete recommendations for how the UN and governments, in partnership with religious bodies, faith-based groups and other stakeholders, can foster an antiracist and anticolonialist society - a society based on the genuine embrace of the whole human family as one humanity, bound by the imperative of respect of every person’s dignity and inalienable worth.
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.
Shaping a just, inclusive, and sustainable future for the human family and the planet we all inhabit is a common task. Sounding a wake-up call, “Our Common Agenda” emphatically warned that “We need a pathway that protects people and the planet, allowing for sustainable development. This means broad shifts in what prosperity and progress mean, how to incentivize and measure them, and how to evaluate policies.” Addressing the intersecting pandemics and crises must be aimed at the achievement of a truly intercultural, multireligious, and pluralistic world.
Injustices have been done to real people, real nations, and the planet we share. The healing of our world and redressing the legacy of colonialism must be global, multilateral, intercultural, and multifaceted. Antiracism is a commitment to protect human rights and a sustainable future. We cannot postpone action.
Inequalities are forcing public institutions to revisit other crises that are intersecting with racism. Public discourse today is much more welcoming of a re-examination of people and institutions and their entanglement and complicity with racism, colonialism, and slavery.
Today, international institutions, governments, and religions have the historic opportunity and responsibility to address the multiplicity of injustices—local and international, global and planetary. With our heightened awareness of the intersecting character of these crises, analysed through the lens of gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and indeed of culture and religion, the time of reckoning is upon us.
Today, racism and attendant issues actively subverts our best imagination of what makes for peace and justice, for mercy and compassion, for dignity and equality. We must reverse course and redress historic grievances and forge a new future.
The self-appropriated rights to possess indigenous minds, lands and other resources have been embraced by religions and faith-based institutions embodied through policies based on manifest destiny, exceptionalism, and the Doctrine of Discovery.
Increasing signs of building a better future appear when religions, religious institutions and philosophies are unashamedly repudiating their past complicities with slavery, colonialism and racism. It is equally a sign of enlightened maturity for nations to recognize and repudiate their violent past of colonial aggressions, of abuses, and of violations of people’s human rights and the integrity of their communities.
The Symposium will address the ways in which the historic injustice of slavery, colonialism, and racism have lingered in our midst and exacerbate the many current challenges facing our world. It will explore how forms of ethnocentrism, tribalism, casteism, classism and colorism damage human relations and how such relations have been put asunder by classifications of power and supremacy, of superiority and inferiority, among human beings and their communities.
To overcome and abolish the intersecting crises brought about by slavery, racism, and colonialism, we must go beyond symptoms to the root causes. Addressing these crises, in fact, is a condition sine qua non for the healing that is desperately needed on all levels. The role of religion, as much as nation-states, in these intersecting historic and contemporary pandemics and crises are tangible.
Revisiting the various slaveries, colonialisms and racism in their historic intersections and social intersectionality will provide unique perspectives regarding how they have brought much suffering, lingering inter- and transgenerational traumas and deaths, not only of people of African descent but also indigenous peoples and peoples of color.
Antiracism must be one of the common goals in which the UN and its multilateral bodies work together on with religious and faith-based organizations.
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
Seventh-Day Adventist Church
United Religions Initiative
Soka Gakkai International
Moderators for the Day: Ms. Quinn Wonderling, Senior Coordinator of United Nations and International Affairs, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church and Rev. Audri Scott Williams, Global Peace Walker and Spiritual Director of the Spiritual Enrichment Center in Dothan, AL, USA
8:00 Welcome and Housekeeping
Outline of the purpose and agenda for the Symposium
8:10 Opening Session: Perspectives from the UN system, government and faith organizations 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
- Ms. Diene Keita, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNFPA Deputy Executive Director (Programme)
- Dr. Azza Karam, General Secretary, Religions for Peace
- Mr. Rudelmar Bueno De Faria, ACT Alliance Secretary General
8:55 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, Geneva
- Ms. Hayley Ramsay-Jones, Representative to the UN, Soka Gakkai International, Geneva
- Dr. Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Professor, University of York, UK, and Head, WHO Collaborating Center for Global Health Histories
10:00 Session 3: Showcasing innovative experiences and concrete actions for positive change change throughout the international community
Moderator: Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock, Executive for Justice and Witness, World Communion of Reformed Churches)
- Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko, UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
- Dr. Masiiwa Gunda, Programme Executive for Programmatic Responses on Overcoming Racism, World Council of Churches
- Ms. Maytha Alhassen, Religion and Public Life in Media and Entertainment Fellow, Harvard University, Co-Executive producer, Ramy
- Mr. Tahil Sharma, North America Regional Coordinator, United Religions Initiative (URI)
- Ms. Ruth Messinger, former President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
Q & A
11:05 Session 4: From Analyses to Action: Policy Recommendations and Practical Steps
The panel aims to promote 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 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. Giving examples of what is already being done along these lines through your organization and experience will be a must.
Moderator: Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, Assistant General Secretary, UN and International Affairs-General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church and President, Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the UN
- H.E. Ambassador Francisco Duarte Lopes, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN in New York
- Dr. Abbas Barzegar, Director, The Horizon Forum
- Mr. Cooper Christiancy, JD, Research and Advocacy Advisor to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism
- Ms. Vanessa Griddine-Jones, JD, LL.M., Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Institute
- Ms. Audrey Kitagawa, JD, President/Founder of the International Academy for Multicultural Cooperation
- Dr. Abubakar Kabwogi, Founding Secretary General, Africa Council of Religious Leaders
12:10 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, Chair, Symposium Planning Group and Programme Executive, Ecumenical Office to the UN and Representative to UN Headquarters
- Ms. Ana Jimenez, UN Inter-agency Task Force on Religion and Sustainable Development