RELIGIONS FOR PEACE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE STATEMENT
ON BUILDING PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST


ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT | 6 DECEMBER 2007


New initiatives are now being taken to build peace in the Middle East. Concrete solutions to the issues of the borders of a future Palestinian State, the future of Jerusalem and the rights of return of Palestinians can and must be achieved.

We, the Executive Committee of Religions for Peace, urge the Palestinian and Israeli political leaders to take bold steps to advance a just and durable peace. We also urge that other states—those in the region and those assisting in the peace process, notably the United States—redouble their efforts to support a practical and principled peace process.

Taking the political steps necessary to build peace will require great courage and political will of Israelis and Palestinians. This courage and will exists, but demands every support and encouragement. As the senior religious leaders of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land noted recently: “Palestinians yearn for the end to occupation and for what they see as their inalienable rights. Israelis long for the day when they can live in personal and national security.” “Together”—they noted—“we must find ways of reaching these goals.”

Today, both communities must take steps to break cycles of violence and offer tangible expressions of good will designed to build confidence. We urge the Israeli and Palestinian governments and peoples to withstand any violent attempts of extremists to hijack the peace process and to summon the great courage necessary to build confidence. We note with appreciation the many grassroots efforts in this regard.

While a political solution depends on a just resolution of the legitimate political aspirations of Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, we, as religious leaders, also know that true peace and reconciliation will require the active participation of the religious communities. Jewish, Christian and Islamic believers are profoundly attached to the Holy Land. The spiritual heritages of these communities have shaped the history of the Holy Land and their living faith is itself an irreplaceable force for advancing a just peace and reconciling communities deeply injured by decades of violent conflict.

We stand in full solidarity with the courageous and heartening signs of cooperation among the religious communities in the Holy Land. Concretely, the religious leaders there have identified respect for holy sites to be among their highest priorities. They are united in the conviction that all—political leaders and the diverse religious communities—must take active steps to ensure the integrity and independence of places of worship and protect them against acts of desecration, aggression or harm. The religious leaders are particularly committed to ensuring that their own holy sites are not misused for purposes that are opposed to the peaceful aspirations of their religious traditions. We pledge to support them in their related initiatives.

Confident that cooperation among the religions in the Holy Land is a unique and irreplaceable key to building peace, we call on relevant governments and those responsible for the political peace process to recognize the importance of interreligious initiatives and to engage them appropriately. At the same time, we urge that the religious leaders in the Holy Land intensify their efforts to facilitate communication and cooperation among their communities designed to build understanding and confidence, relief from suffering and the healing of deep injuries.

In this regard, we note with special appreciation the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land. We are grateful for the multi-religious efforts in Israel—including our Religions for Peace affiliate there, the Interreligious Coordinating Council of Israel—and for the recent establishment of the Religions for Peace Inter-religious Council in Palestine. We are further deeply heartened by the commitment of religious leaders to establish a Religions for Peace Middle East Council of Religious Leader, designed to facilitate multi-religious cooperation for peace across the region. We stand in solidarity with these multi-religious mechanisms and commit ourselves to help to support and strengthen them to take concrete action to build peace.

On the global level, as leaders of the world’s largest and most representative coalition of religious leaders who work together for peace, we commit ourselves—as a sign of solidarity—to accept the invitation of our religious colleagues in the Holy Land to meet as an Executive Committee at the earliest convenient time in Jerusalem, the city considered holy by three great religious traditions.


(End of Statement.)

 

The World's Religious Communities

Stand with the Buddhist Monks of Myanmar in their Peaceful Protest

Calls on Myanmar Government
to Exercise Restraint and
to Enter Peaceful Dialogue

(NEW YORK, 25 September 2007) Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace,
the world's largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, which
European Council of Religious Leaders
is affiliated, today issued the following statement calling on the military government of Myanmar to exercise restraint and enter into peaceful dialogue with Myanmar's religious communities and other groups:

Read more at: http://www.religionsforpeace.no/index.cfm?id=154327

Statement on Dialogue

(NEW YORK, 25 September 2007)—
Religions for Peace, which
European Council of Religious Leaders

is affiliated, today issued the following statement regarding the “East West Dialogue:
An Interfaith Encounter between North American Religious Leaders and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran”:

http://www.religionsforpeace.no/index.cfm?id=154334


 

Secretary General’s Update

January 2007

Former Iranian President Khatami advances shared security at
the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly,
Kyoto, Japan.

A major international initiative, the Helsinki Process, has adopted as a priority focus the theme of “shared security” from the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly.

Initiated in 2002 by the governments of Finland and Tanzania, the Helsinki Process promotes cooperation among governments, civil society organizations, and the corporate sector. It seeks to discover innovative and practical ways of building networks to tackle problems of globalization and encourages democracy, good governance, sustainable development, and mutual security.

At the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly in Kyoto, Japan, last year, 800 religious leaders from a hundred countries adopted a declaration on “shared security.” The Assembly indicated that—even on practical terms—each individual should be deeply invested in a notion of “shared security.” No one can build a wall high enough to protect himself or herself from vulnerabilities of others. This practical reason for shared security complements a more basic moral reason for it, supported by every religious tradition: the responsibility each of us has to care for our brothers and sisters and to treat others as ourselves. Finally, the Assembly emphasized that shared security is the collective responsibility of all sectors: governments, businesses, and civil society.

The Helsinki Process has partnered with Religions for Peace to convene three working sessions of an expert working group from a cross section of these sectors. Since August, this group has met three times: in Kyoto, Helsinki, and, just last week, in The Hague. Currently, the discussions are focusing on the unique ways in which religious communities can advance security by mobilizing their moral and spiritual heritages around security challenges. Religious communities have the tremendous additional advantage of being the largest social networks in the world.

The working group will soon convene again in Alexandria, Egypt, to map out the roles that religious communities may play in building security in the Middle East. I look forward to sharing with you the ways in which the Religions for Peace family’s concern for shared security can be creatively linked to relevant commitments in the governmental and private sectors.

In peace,

Dr. William F. Vendley


 

 

Statement
Statement on Pope Benedict XVI’s Remarks

Dr. William F. Vendley

Secretary General
WCRP-Religions for Peace


The recent exchange profiled in the news regarding Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks on Islam—and the outrage and injury felt by the Islamic community—are but one example of how religious differences can divide. At worse, such misstatements, misunderstandings, and counter-reactions can inflame centuries-old conflicts and lead to violence.

And yet, it doesn’t have to happen.

Already, the Vatican and members of the Islamic community are on the front lines of a multi-religious effort to build peace with justice. Just weeks ago, representatives from both the Vatican and the Islamic community were among the 2,000 people representing the world’s diverse faiths who gathered together at the Religions for Peace Eighth World Assembly in Kyoto, Japan. Coming from a hundred countries, they pledged to confront violence and build “shared security,” acknowledging that each religious tradition had its variation on the Golden Rule: to treat another as oneself, surely a most sensible approach to human relations.

The Kyoto Declaration, ratified by the delegates, acknowledged, “We must regretfully accept that some groups within our religious communities have indeed sought to employ violence. We must reject this and recommit religions to the way of peace.”

While it is regrettable that the Pope’s remarks deeply offended so many Muslims, it is positive that an apology has been issued. The recent exchange highlights the need for sustained efforts among all religious communities to respect difference and work together based on deeply held and widely shared moral concerns. For thirty-six years, Religions for Peace has built a global alliance of the world’s religious communities for peace.

19 September 2006


Statement - Kyoto Declaration

Statement - Women's Declaration

Statement - Youth Assembly Declaration

Peace Education déclaration

Religions for Peace: Confronting violence and advancing shared security
Kyoto, Japan
August 26-29, 2006
The task of Peace Education

I. At the beginning of the third millennium, Peace Education in and through the Religions faces a great number of Challenges worldwide:

• Too many children and young people suffer from unjust social structures: lack schooling and training, in extreme situations are surrounded by violence in war and post war situations, are forced to child labor, child slavery, child prostitution.

• Too many children and young people lack the experience of love, security and protection, are exposed to consumerism, experience widespread neglect, use drugs and are willing to resort to violence.


• Too many children and young people lack fundamental religious and cultural orientation: the knowledge of their own religious and cultural tradition as well as of other religions and world views, and therefore are exposed to prejudices, one sided views and enmities between cultural and religious groups.

• Too many children and young people do not receive the necessary ethical guidance: They will only be equipped for living together in a way that will ensure the continued existence of our planet if they respect their fellow human beings, feel responsibility for all the living and inanimate world of creation, are sensitive to hatred, violence and all developments that threaten life and commu¬nity.

II. Peace Education can profit from the spiritual, ethical and social potential of the Religions

• In spite of a history full of tensions, conflicts and wars there is a deep motivation for peace in the Religions – not only for personal and inner peace but also for actively overcoming aggression and creating a strong coalition for a comprehensive peace. Nearly all great Peace movements since the 20th century – for example the non-violent movement of Mahatma Gandhi, the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King, the anti apartheid movement in South Africa and the change in the German Democratic Republic – have been religiously motivated.
It is an experience of religions that peace must come “from within”, that the “open heart” is a precondition for actively working for peace.

• The Religions are concerned with giving meaning to life, making interpretations of the world, and not only for short-term goals. The ethic of the great religious traditions is rooted in global, not particularistic, terms. The Global Ethic Declaration of the World Parliament of Religions (1993) shows this very clearly.

• The Religions can foster the Learning for a Culture of Non-violence and Respect for Life – and this in interfaith cooperation.


• The Religions can foster the Learning for a Culture of Solidarity and a Just Economic Order – and this in interfaith cooperation.

• The Religions can foster the Learning for a Culture of Tolerance and a Life in Truthfulness – and this in interfaith cooperation
• The Religions can foster the Learning for a Culture of Equal Rights and Partnership between Men and Women – and this in interfaith cooperation

III. The Religions have to develop proposals for actions in order to implement their potential for Peace Education

• Being rooted in an ultimate concern they can give the strength to work in the long, not only in the short term – and this should become a familiar part of all religious educational endeavours


• From their experiences they can be active in the prevention of conflicts, in conflict resolution and in post-conflict reconciliation work – and for this educational work has to be expanded.
It will be important to find a good balance between teaching ones own religion and knowing about the other – and this will be relevant for concepts of confessional as well as of non-confessional Religious Education. Where ever direct encounter between religious communities is possible it should be promoted to enable authentic presentations of religious beliefs and practices.

• The Religions have to build up a global consciousness for Religious and Inter-religious Education, for an Education towards Violence free Communication and Conflict Resolution and for Environmental Education and Education for Socio-Economic Development.
- A basic condition is the respect for the conviction of the others and to try to see it from their point of view.
- A specific task is to recognise carefully the real situation of children and to encourage their creativity taking in account that children can be educators themselves.
- A helpful means will be to bring youth together for social action : Youth can inspire and teach Youth.
- There are many inspiring stories in different regional and cultural contexts which can be used for a fruitful exchange between educators and educational institutions (as an example: the exchange between the Peace Village Neve Shalom in Israel and Northern Ireland Integrative Education Projects).

• It is a task as well as an opportunity for Religions for Peace – through its Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC) as well as through its international, regional, national and local bodies – to support the emerging networks in Religious Education, Peace Education, Social Education, Human Rights Education and Environmental Education worldwide.
It is clear that all initiatives must be contextualised to the specific area, cultural, social and educational conditions. For example: Japan as the country of the 8th World Assembly of RfP shows the uniqness of a very specific religious environment.

• A more intense exchange is to be developed concerning the fundamental visions and goals in Peace Education Projects, their training methods, their experiences and the transfer possibilities so that educators, communities and also cultural educational bodies can profit from each other.
In detail this means:
- Encouraging contact and cooperation between theologians and religious teachers from the different religions as well as experts comparative religion
- Improving the training of religious teachers and the clergy in the knowledge of other religions and world-views and their ethical principles - permitting each side to present its identity
- Reviewing and revising guidelines, syllabi and textbooks concerning their presentation of other religions and world-views
- Looking carefully and critically to the history or religions
- Including encounters with believers of different religions in educational programmes
- look for cooperation possibilities between school and communal activities and to inspire school community projects.
- Taking in account the possibility of a children’s Conference beginning with the 9th World Assembly


IV. There are a number of steps to be identified and recommended to equip religious communities and institutions for significant involvement in Peace Education.

• The fundamental insight of the Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC) is that it needs continuous and systematic inter-religious and international cooperation which goes beyond meetings and declarations (important as they are for initial and repeated exchange and inspiration).

• The PESC work has so far been successful in that it has identified the fields of action and has equipped experts as well as giving guidelines for practical Peace Education work in different regions and religious, cultural and social contexts. The triennial Nuremberg Forums for Education for Religious and Cultural encounter have been a focus on an international level.


• Each National Chapter of Religions for Peace should nominate at least one representative who has experience in the pedagogical field to be associated with the Steering Committee and Advisory Council of PESC in order to deepen and widen the work


• The work of PESC should be brought into closer cooperation with other international and intercultural Educational movements – as in the framework of UNESCO, the International Seminary on Religious Education and Values (ISREV), the European Association on World Religions in Education (EAWRE), and others.

• PESC should be in a position to inspire and inform new initiatives for religious and inter-religious education in schools as well as in religious communities.
Some examples:
-Developing ways to show the relevance of spiritual values for educational matters
- Promoting weeks of prayer for World Peace
- Giving inspiration and help for religious and interreligious learning in the family
- Presenting peace texts from the religions
-Promoting interreligious awareness in and with the media, especially for youth
- Strengthening the PESC website, showing also “good examples” of syllabuses and creative ways (art, music…) for the educational encounter of Religions

• Therefore the infrastructure of PESC needs to be strengthened. Until now the possibilities for exchange and activities on a Global Level have been limited. It will be important to have a professional Commission Coordination (as was possible during the first time after the establishment of PESC) and scientific institutions to further develop and evaluate religiously based Peace education.

Thinking globally, acting locally and working constructively on the international, regional and national level – having careful regard to the specific contexts, challenges and possibilities – makes Peace Education in and through the Religions a key tool in confronting violence and advancing shared security.

For further information and suggestions contact: Peace Education Standing Commission (PESC)
Prof. Dr. Johannes Lähnemann, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Regensburger Str. 160 Fax: +49-911-5302-502
D-90478 Nürnberg, Germany E-mail: johannes.laehnemann@ewf.uni-erlangen.de www.wcrp.de/pesc

 

Statement - PM Junichiro Koizumi
Statement - HE Mohammad Khatami
Statement - HB Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Statement - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

Statement - Sudan
Statement - Iraq
Statement - Sri Lanka
Statement - Six-Party Talks

SIGNIS (World Catholic Association for Communication) - Statement
Marc Aellen Augustine Loorthusamy
Secretary General President
SIGNIS-World SIGNIS-World
 
ECRL- WCRP: Statement

ECRL is a participating body of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.WCRP

Statement
from the meeting of the Executive Committee of
The European Council of Religious Leaders,
Oslo February 6. 2006


We strongly appeal to responsible leaders of all faiths to do their utmost to reject and do their utmost to stop the ongoing acts of violence and terror, which are carried out in the name of God. We condemn the misuse of freedom of expression to blaspheme that which is holy for believers. All religions hold certain symbols and realities of faith to be holy, and feel particularly strongly about these. These feelings should be respected by all people, regardless of faith. The deeply offensive series of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are a grievous affront to most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. As such, they are also deeply offensive to members of other religious communities. We join the appeal from The European Islamic Conference to Muslims not to be carried away by anger, and not to react with violence. We also welcome and affirm the conciliatory message of the Muslim Council of Britain.

We uphold the rights of free expression as fundamental to democracy and human rights, and acknowledge the fact that freedom of religion is closely connected to and dependent upon freedom of expression. We see it as a violation of this freedom when it is used without consideration of possible harmful effects on individuals and groups, especially in a very volatile situation.

The recent acts which are widely considered to be blasphemous should not be allowed to be manipulated by provocateurs or derail the promising process of dialogue and cooperation for common good, which has been developed and intensified during the last decade. True religion should not be held hostage by extremists in any religious or political movement. The recent burning of embassies and churches as well as other acts of riot is totally unacceptable not only from a civil but also from a religious point of view.

These tragic events now unfolding in several countries, can only be stopped if all believers in God, take full responsibility for peace and justice, within their own faith community and as responsible citizens in their own cultural, social and national setting. In all religions there is shared moral duty to love God, and to love your neighbour as yourself, as there is a common spiritual heritage in the call to do unto others what you want others to do to you. These religiously motivated tenets represent honoured spiritual traditions through the ages and they are highly relevant also in our own age. They help us to transcend religious, ethnic, social and cultural boundaries. They offer a strong motivation to seek new ways to build bridges between cultures especially in these times of tense agitation and confrontation on issues fully or partly related to religion.
We welcome the way the Norwegian Government has addressed the balance between freedom of religion and freedom of expression. And we strongly appeal to all Governments to shy away from any acts and statements that may further escalate the conflict, and to seek diplomatic solutions in a spirit of shared global responsibility. Any transgression of law should be dealt with, not in the court of the streets, but by the appropriate authority within the juridical system of every country, and in keeping with international laws and conventions. The government of countries with a free press cannot be expected to apologize for what appears in the media
This deeply regrettable situation illustrates the importance of strengthening multi-religious understanding and mutual solidarity. The European Council of Religious Leaders, and its global organization Religions for Peace, stands ready to work with any Government or civil society institution truly committed to promoting human dignity and human rights as well as respect for religious beliefs and symbols. We are presently strengthening our long-standing efforts in promoting mutual understanding and reconciliation by the sharing of information, consultation, and appeals for wisdom and restraint. We want to stress the importance of every religious leader as a messenger of reconciliation and show their responsibility and solidarity with other faith communities, as attack on one is attack on all.

The European Council of Religious Leaders is giving high priority to the unfolding drama, and expect this and similar conflicts to be addressed at the forthcoming General Assembly of Religions for Peace in Kyoto, Japan in August this year.

We strongly appeal to all people of faith not to be overcome by despair but to lift up their hearts in prayers for peace and tolerance.

European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace (ECRL) is a body of senior religious leaders of Europe's historic religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians in Europe who have committed themselves to cooperating for conflict prevention, peaceful co-existence and reconciliation. ECRL is a participating body of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.