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The United Nations initiative in engaging religion in peace-building

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Hubbard, Benjamin J.








The United Nations convened a first-ever Millennium Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders August 28-31, 2000 at UN headquarters in New York with the aim of enlisting these leaders in the work of peace building. In attendance were 800 of them from 100 countries, along with 1,000 observers. There were differences of thinking on some issues, e.g., missionary work and conversion, but a strong consensus on the need for the world's religions to work with the UN in pursuing peace and religious freedom, eradicating poverty and ignorance, and preserving the environment. The Summit created the World Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders and--together with leading economists--the Religious Initiative of the World Economic Forum; scheduled a World Conference of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders for the summer or fall of 2002 (since women were underrepresented at the Summit); and set up a Global Commission for the Preservation of Sacred Sites. Since 1995, the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been involved in a parallel form of peace building via its Interreligious Dialogue Program and its establishment of chairs in interfaith studies at leading universities world wide. The most recent dialogue meeting was at Tashkent, Uzbekistan in September 2000. There, 80 participants from 40 countries focused on interreligious dialogue in Central Asia, as well as the need for the comparative study of religions and cultures, and joint activities for peace and conflict resolution. In light of the events of September 11, 2001, the need for these UN initiatives could not be more important.