Religions for Peace is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace. Logos Consulting Group has advised Religions for Peace as a pro bono publico client for more than 15 years, and Logos president Helio Fred Garcia has served on its Board of International Trustees for the past six years.
The global Religions for Peace network comprises a World Council of senior religious leaders from all regions of the world; six regional inter-religious councils and more than 90 national ones; and the Global Women of Faith Network and Global Interfaith Youth Network.
In mid-October 2017 Religions for Peace held its annual meeting of its World Council of religious leaders and its Board of International Trustees, as a strategy planning session for the next World Assembly of Religions for Peace, in 2019.
The meeting was held in the American Academy in Rome, Italy.
The theme of the meeting was “Advancing a Moral Alliance Among the World’s Religions for an Integral Ecology,” using a phrase that Pope Francis coined in a recent encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’. The meeting began with a private audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis, in the Vatican.
In his address to the Religions for Peace World Council and Board, His Holiness said,
“I express my esteem and appreciation for the work of Religions for Peace. You provide a valuable service to both religion and peace, for religions are bound by their very nature to promote peace through justice, fraternity, disarmament, and care for creation.
There is a need for a common and cooperative effort on the part of religions in promoting an integral ecology. The religions have the wherewithal to further a moral covenant that can promote respect for the dignity of the human person and care for creation.
Thanks be to God, in various parts of the world we have any number of good examples of the power of inter-religious cooperation to oppose violent conflicts, to advance sustainable development and to protect the earth. Let us continue along this path.”
The Vatican played a central role in the meeting, through the offices of Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, a part of the Roman Curia, the Vatican’s administrative body.
The two-day meeting featured substantive planning of critical issues to be addressed in the next World Assembly of Religions for Peace, held every seven to nine years, that brings together more than 2,000 religious leaders from all major faith communities in the world.
The planning meeting in mid-October, 2017 included working groups in three separate work streams:
- Conflict transformation: the use of religious leadership and religious community to stop violence being conducted in the name of religion; to prevent conflicts from occurring in the first place; and to create social conditions for peace and stability in otherwise unstable parts of the world. Religions for Peace acknowledges the reality that religion is all-too-often being misused in support of violent threats to Peace – by extremists, by unscrupulous politicians, by the sensationalist media, and others. Through the years Religions for Peace has amassed a record of successful engagement in a number of conflict areas, including: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Burundi, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Mano River and Great Lakes African sub-regions, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and Syria.
- Sustainable development: equipping religious leaders and communities with the necessary resources and knowledge to address critical issues of health and well-being, education, climate action, and distribution of resources to reveal the potential inherent in all human communities. Extreme poverty threatens peace and human flourishing by depleting health, perpetuating existing inequalities, and jeopardizing access to basic human rights.
- Protecting the earth: addressing climate change, safe drinking water, and other environmental challenges. Religions for Peace is faced with a clear moral imperative to respond to threats to the planet. For the world’s major religions, care for the earth is a religious obligation. Working with top climate scientists and development experts, Religions for Peace has developed and deployed climate sensitive advocacy and action training materials across its global networks as well as implemented multi religious initiatives in partnership with other concerned entities—especially the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the Vatican.
Each working group developed a statement of problem, a proposed path forward to engage the world’s religious communities, and actionable steps to take between now and the World Assembly to show the impact that multi-religious cooperation can have on each of these challenges.
These recommendations will now become part of the work coordinated by Religions for Peace’s International Secretariat, based at the United Nations in New York, and will be implemented through the six regional and more than 90 national inter-religious councils in the Religions for Peace network over the next two years. Results from that work will form the policy agenda for tenth World Assembly of Religions for Peace in 2019.