Conference of the World Council of Religious Leaders on Faith and Diplomacy: Generations in Dialogue
4 – 7 October
Peace be with you all,
Your Excellencies, distinguished guests and members of the World Council of Religions for Peace, friends and colleagues.
In 1970, at the time of the first World Conference of Religions for Peace, many in the international arena looked down on religion as something backward that is bound to disappear – and – if not part of the problems to be overcome, definitely not part of the solutions that were to be found. We will remain grateful to all those who nevertheless resolved to work together for peace between religions as their contribution to peace between peoples and nations!
We have come a long way since then. Just recently, I was invited to speak at an international Dialogue on Covid-19 and Consequences for Global Multilateral Cooperation. The director general of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus highlighted at that occasion the role of faith communities in the response to the pandemic. He said: “Ultimately, the best way is to keep communities healthy and safe, engaged, informed and empowered by leaders and institutions they trust to protect themselves, and faith-based organisations are the most trusted.”
Religious leaders who have been engaged in inter-faith dialogue and cooperation at local, regional and international levels – sometimes in the face of tremendous pressure of religious fanatics of all sides – have contributed to such change in public discourse. These charismatic leaders and pioneers opened the door for constructive involvement of religious leaders in peace building, or the struggle against the root causes of the climate crises, massive economic inequalities and the consequences of the pandemic. In this present context, we are coming even closer together, stepping up or efforts to defeating the virus and ensuring safety and health of people everywhere.
With indeed growing expectations and recognition comes also greater responsibility. People longing for peace and justice for their suffering children and families watch carefully if we take them seriously and speak out for them. Do we walk the talk? Have our own relationships with each other as religious leaders grown enough and matured so much that we are holding each other accountable on our common journey?
I believe we do. I see us strengthening the bonds among us as members of one human family, making good use of the existing inter-religious councils and newly emerging platforms for inter-faith cooperation.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the World Council of Religions for Peace for an initiative taken last year which has helped to build confidence and trust in inter-faith cooperation among my fellow Christian sisters and brothers. It was on 24 July 2020 that the leadership of Religions for Peace issued a statement concerning the conversion of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. I can assure you that your solidarity has profound meaning for us Christians and compels us to defend also other peoples’ places of worship and prayer against powers who intend to divide us by putting some believers against one another.
As a co-president of Religions for Peace, I was proud that the Council declared: “We are determined that faith not be utilized in the service of the interests of the few today. Rather, we rally the spirit of all, for a peace that goes beyond any one faith, any race, any gender, any ethnicity, any label, any institution, and any nation.”
If we keep this in mind, we will go far together and not get weary.
Thank you very much.
Rev. Prof. Dr Sauca
Acting general secretary
World Council of Churches