By Robin Gomes
The 10th World Assembly of "Religions for Peace", the world’s most representative, multi-religious gathering of religious communities, concluded on Friday in the German town of Lindau, with participants committing themselves to common action for the common good of humanity.
Some 900 senior religious leaders, 100 representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society groups, and youth and women of faith from over 125 countries came together, August 20 to 23, to discuss their theme “Caring for our Common Future—Advancing Shared Well-Being.”
Every 5–7 years, "Religions for Peace" convenes a World Assembly for the purpose of forging a deep moral consensus on contemporary challenges and advancing multi-religious action across and beyond its network.
Issues of our common future
The assembly concluded on Friday with a declaration in which participants, on behalf of their communities and groups, committed themselves to advance shared well-being by preventing and transforming violent conflicts, promoting just and harmonious societies, nurturing sustainable and integral human development, and protecting the earth.
In concrete terms, they vow to: promote the positive roles of women in preventing and transforming conflicts, and on the issue of violence against them; and work for the well-being of refugees and migrants.
They resolve to raise public awareness about deforestation, take action against climate change and advocate policies that protect the earth. In this regard, “Religions for Peace” urge religious communities to invest their resources in tune with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and support the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Among other actions, the participants pledge to foster public acts of forgiveness and reconciliation and to produce positive peace materials and workshops for multi-religious contexts. They express concern for war, poverty, refugees, migrants and people on the move, the arms race and global warming, saying they weigh heavily on the human family. In their work for human rights, members also resolved to cultivate solidarity by fostering virtues such as mercy, compassion and love that are common to all religions and faiths.
Regarding themselves as an “alliance of care, of compassion, of love”, members of “Religions for Peace” express gratitude for 49 years of their “determined focus on building peace and on speaking for those most in need”. The 10th Assembly of "Religions for Peace" had participants from the various conflict zones of the world, underscoring the group’s commitment to preventing conflicts and advancing peace in the world.
A woman at the helm
A quarter of all participants at the 10th World Assembly of “Religions for Peace” were female, more than at previous assemblies. However many lamented the lack of gender equality, stressing the importance of women in peace-building.
For the first time in the history of the association, a woman is now at the helm. Dr Azza Karam was unanimously elected the Secretary-General of “Religions for Peace” on August 21. The Egyptian-born Dutch professor of Religion and Development at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam succeeds William F. Vendley of the United States, who has served for 27 years in the post. Karam has served in various positions at the United Nations since the 1990s.
Representatives of various religious communities and faiths are serving "Religions for Peace" in various capacities. Prominent Catholic Church personalities include Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan Archbishop of Abuja, Mexican Cardinal José Robles Ortega of Guadalajara, Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako of Baghdad, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, retired Italian Archbishop Luigi Bressan of Trento and Maltese Sister Carmen Sammut, the president of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG).