Geneva, 23 January 2024

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, esteemed delegates, and honored guests,

As we gather here today for the 10th anniversary edition of the Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Actors in International Affairs, it is my privilege to address you on behalf of the World Council of Churches, one of the founding members of this Symposium. This pivotal moment not only marks a decade of robust dialogue and collaboration but also underscores the indispensable role of faith-based actors in shaping a world where human rights are at the core of our collective aspirations. We believe that God has placed us as caretakers of this world, both the people and planet. 

In a world marred by conflicts, inequities, and myriad challenges, the significance of upholding human rights cannot be overstated. The very fabric of our societies is woven with the threads of dignity, justice, and compassion. It is incumbent upon us, as custodians of faith and moral conscience, to champion these universal values that transcend borders, beliefs, and backgrounds. The responsibility and contributions of Faith-Based communities in challenging unjust structures and powers are indispensable to transforming and creating a better world for all people and creation, especially given our current realities.

Our faith traditions, spanning continents and cultures, share a fundamental commitment to human rights. The intrinsic worth of every individual, bestowed upon us by the Divine, forms the cornerstone of our faith-based ethics. Our scriptures and teachings implore us not only to recognize the inherent dignity of all human beings but also to actively safeguard their rights and freedoms.

Faith compels us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, to advocate for the voiceless, and to strive for justice in the face of injustice. It emboldens us to challenge systems of oppression and inequality, to offer compassion to the marginalized, and to work tirelessly for the empowerment of the vulnerable.

Yet, despite our collective efforts, we continue to grapple with challenges that undermine the realization of human rights. Conflicts persist, poverty persists, discrimination persists. Our commitment to human rights demands unwavering determination to address these issues at their core. We must confront the structures and systems that perpetuate human suffering, dismantle barriers to equality, and foster inclusive societies where every person can flourish.

However, within these challenges lie tremendous opportunities. The convergence of faith and advocacy for human rights has the power to catalyze positive change on a global scale. The partnerships forged between faith-based organizations, civil society, governments, and international institutions are testaments to the transformative potential of collective action.

Therefore, let us reaffirm our commitment today—to redouble our efforts, to deepen our collaborations, and to amplify our voices in the pursuit of human rights. Let us engage in dialogue that fosters understanding and mutual respect, transcending theological differences for the greater good of humanity.

Let us advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritize the protection of human rights, ensuring that they are not mere rhetoric but a lived reality for all. Let us nurture communities where diversity is celebrated, where compassion reigns, and where justice prevails.

In closing, let us remember that our faith commitments to human rights are not solitary endeavors. They are bridges that connect us, guiding us towards a shared future founded on dignity, justice, and peace. As we commemorate this milestone, let us recommit ourselves to being catalysts of positive change in our communities, our nations, and our world. The world needs Faith- Based Actors to steer the moral compass, infuse cosmic spirituality, promote justice and work for peace. Let us keep on keeping on in this world of struggle and strive. 

Thank you.

Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay 
General Secretary
World Council of Churches