Archive for the ‘united nations’ tag
by Kathe Schaaf
Women’s Task Force, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
The Women’s Task Force was represented as more than 6,000 women from around the world converged on the United Nations headquarters in New York for the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women March 4-15. More than 100 workshops and panels anchored by grassroots women and NGOs explored this year’s theme, eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Women’s Task Force of CPWR hosted several events, including a panel of women exploring this challenging topic from diverse religious perspectives. “Religion, Culture and Violence Against Women” was attended by more than 50 women and featured Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, Founder and Senior Analyst of FaithTrust Institute along with Rabbi Diana S. Gerson, Program Director of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, who anchors the Peaceful Families project for the Muslim community.
Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune encouraged attendees to support the National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women which is posted online:
We proclaim with one voice as national spiritual and religious leaders
that violence against women exists in all communities, including our own, and
is morally, spiritually and universally intolerable.
We acknowledge that our sacred texts, traditions and values have too often been
misused to perpetuate and condone abuse.
We commit ourselves to working toward the day when all women
will be safe and abuse will be no more.
We draw upon our healing texts and practices to help
make our families and societies whole.
Our religious and spiritual traditions compel us to work for justice and the eradication of
violence against women.
We call upon people of all religious and spiritual traditions to join us.
The Women’s Task Force also co-hosted an intergenerational circle workshop “Women as Spiritual Leaders: Transforming Violence” with Women of Spirit and Faith and a Sacred Circle in collaboration with numerous other women’s organizationswho have been bringing grassroots women’s circles to the UN for nearly a decade.
Many of the women at UN-CSW this year were wearing blue buttons in support of a 5th World Conference on Women to connect and energize the many networks of grassroots women worldwide.
Those who seek to cause religious conflict are small in number but highly motivated, organized and funded. While there are billions of people who are engaged in their own faith tradition, many have not yet learned how to live or work together well with those of different traditions.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation decided to tackle this challenge through organising a year-long Fellowship that brought together young people of different faiths to work toward better interfaith action. The Foundation selected 33 outstanding future leaders, who between July 2011 and June 2012, worked in interfaith pairs around the world. They built understanding between different religious communities by mobilising them around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular around malaria prevention.
The Fellows represented a diverse cross section of the faith traditions: 11 were Christian, 10 Muslim, 5 Jewish, 3 Hindu, 2 Buddhist, 1 Baha’i, 1 Sikh and 1 Quaker. Thirty of the Fellows were placed in multi-faith pairs in Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the USA.
Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist association, issued a proposal on June 6 stressing that empowerment of individuals and communities is vital to achieving a sustainable global society. The proposal puts forward ideas related to the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development opening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20.
Ikeda states: “It is unacceptable to consider the pursuit of sustainability as simply a matter of adjusting policies in order to find a better balance between economic and ecological imperatives. Rather, sustainability must be understood as a challenge and undertaking requiring the commitment of all individuals … constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life.”
The proposal, entitled “For a Sustainable Global Society: Learning for Empowerment and Leadership,” emphasizes that education is key.
Ikeda was a strong advocate of establishing the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) which ends in 2014, and he now calls for a successor framework, an educational program for a sustainable global society to start in 2015, focused on fostering agents of positive change. Such a program should give rise to empowerment, and beyond that, to leadership, if it is to generate real transformation.
Ikeda puts forward ideas for far-reaching institutional reform of the United Nations agencies responsible for development and environmental protection. He suggests the consolidation of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and related agencies to create one integrated “global organization for sustainable development.”
by Karla E.General
from Indian Country Today Media Network.Com
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples presents a new opportunity and a new kind of legal authority that could help Native peoples to secure rights to sacred places, and to preserve and protect cultural, religious, and spiritual practices.
The Declaration recognizes and affirms the rights of indigenous peoples to their cultural, religious, and spiritual practices, to have private access to sacred sites (Arts. 12(1), 11(1)), as well as to maintain and strengthen their spiritual relationship with their traditionally held lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources (Art. 25). With the Declaration, Native peoples have rights acknowledged by the international community of nations, including rights to sacred places both within existing reservation or territorial boundaries and beyond.
As rights-holders, Native nations and individuals have the right to cultural, religious, and spiritual practices. As duty-bearer, the U.S. has the responsibility to prevent infringement of these rights. For instance, the Declaration provides that the U.S. must consult with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent when considering projects affecting their lands, territories, and resources (Art. 32(2)) or when adopting any legislative or administrative measures that may affect them (Art. 19), and to provide redress for takings of cultural, intellectual, religious, and spiritual property (Art. 11(2)). Generally, in implementing the Declaration, the U.S. is also obligated to, “in conjunction and cooperation with indigenous peoples … take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration” (Art. 38).
Nairobi (Kenya) 2 March 2012. The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW), a non-governmental organization of contemplative leaders based in the United States, held today an environmental conference at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.
The meeting, entitled Awakening the Healing Heart, focused on how civil society, especially women and religious leaders, can mobilize awareness and action to protect the environment and promote sustainable development.
The challenges facing the environment today has created a new urgency within faith communities to build a global consciousness around sustainable development. An international delegation from the GPIW conference will form part of the inter-faith component attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June 2012.
The meeting brought together over 300 women religious and community leaders, environmentalists and advocates from 28 countries and from all the major faith traditions, including among others H.H. Shinso Ito, head priest of Shinnyo-en, Japan; Reverand Dr. Celestin Musekura, founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, Rwanda/USA; Ms. Wang Yongchen, founder of Green Earth Volunteers, China and Dr. Sakeena Yacoobi, founder of the Afghan Institute of Learning.
by Katherine Marshall
from Huffington Post
The United Nations General Assembly began on February 11 to debate Syria’s prolonged and bitter tragedy of killing, after the Security Council, next door, failed miserably to find enough agreement among the world’s dominant nations to act. United Nations idealists believe that the General Assembly, as a body representing all the world’s nations, has the responsibility and the capacity to protect the vulnerable. Sadly such idealism is generally in scant supply these day and so these General Assembly debates have an aura of symbolism as the tanks mass in Syria.
On February 7 in the same General Assembly Hall a very different group gathered in a very different spirit. It was inspired by what some might call an even more idealistic cause: interfaith harmony. For the first time World Interfaith Harmony Week was celebrated at the United Nations. Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Muslim imams, Christian bishops, Shinto priests, Jewish rabbis, and many others came there to celebrate and reflect on their deep belief that, while religious diversity is part of humanity’s very essence, people can live in peace and harmony. The morning event did change the generally dour tone of the Hall as music echoed, children read inspirational passages, and speaker after speaker spoke to the ideals of common cause and the common good. It concluded with representatives of different religions symbolizing their common, shared care for the earth as each watered a tree.
World Interfaith Harmony week, for those who gathered to celebrate, marked a hard won achievement. In October 2010 the General Assembly passed, unanimously, a Resolution declaring the first week in February each year as World Interfaith Harmony Week. In proposing it, King Abdullah of Jordon harked back to the initiative of Muslim leaders who reached out to Christians in a 2007 letter entitled “A Common Word”. The King urged that: “It is .. essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust, especially among peoples of different religions…Humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbor; to love the good and neighbor.” The aim is thus to work through interfaith dialogue and common action to counter the idea and reality of a clash of civilizations.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Holy Land joined forces Monday to launch a multi-faith environmental campaign, citing religious injunctions to protect the Earth across their three faiths.
Among their plans are the convening of an international conference of religious leaders in New York ahead of the 2012 United Nations General Assembly, a North America public relations campaign and training future clerics on the importance of environmental issues, one of the organizers said.
At the Jerusalem launch of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, Rabbi David Rosen noted that the obligation upon humans to care for their surroundings comes near the very beginning of the Bible.
“That is the original charge in the first chapters of Genesis, given to the first man and woman, not purely to develop, to till the land, but also to protect it … to conserve it,” he said, to nods of agreement from a Roman Catholic bishop and the Palestinian deputy minister of religious affairs.
“The main religions should really study the ecological crisis together, because our destiny is common,” Bishop William Shomali said. “If Earth is polluted it is polluted for Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
by Desmond Tutu from Huffington Post
As the world’s memory of apartheid receded, Desmond Tutu responded to a stream of invitations to speak around the world on the practical implications of ubuntu. An excerpt from a speech to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001 follows.
We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity. There is not just one planet or one star; there are galaxies of all different sorts, a plethora of animal species, different kinds of plants, and different races and ethnic groups. God shows us, even with a human body, that it is made up of different organs performing different functions and that it is precisely that diversity that makes it an organism. If it were only one organ, it would not be a human body. We are constantly being made aware of the glorious diversity that is written into the structure of the universe we inhabit, and we are helped to see that if it were otherwise, things would go awry. How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?
For Christians, who believe they are created in the image of God, it is the Godhead, diversity in unity and the three-in-oneness of God, which we and all creation reflect. It is this imago Dei too that invests each single one of us — whatever our race, gender, education, and social or economic status — with infinite worth, making us precious in God’s sight. That worth is intrinsic to who we are, not dependent on anything external, extrinsic. Thus there can be no superior or inferior race. We are all of equal worth, born equal in dignity and born free, and for this reason deserving of respect whatever our external circumstances. We are created freely for freedom as those who are decision-making animals and so as of right entitled to respect, to be given personal space to be autonomous. We belong in a world whose very structure, whose essence, is diversity, almost bewildering in extent. It is to live in a fool’s paradise to ignore this basic fact.
We live in a universe marked by diversity as the law of its being and our being. We are made to exist in a life that should be marked by cooperation, interdependence, sharing, caring, compassion and complementarity. We should celebrate our diversity; we should exult in our differences as making not for separation and alienation and hostility but for their glorious opposites. The law of our being is to live in solidarity, friendship, helpfulness, unselfishness, interdependence and complementarity as sisters and brothers in one family — the human family, God’s family. Anything else, as we have experienced, is disaster…
The UN General Assembly in 2010 unanimously passed a resolution to recognize the World Interfaith Harmony Week annually during the first week of February. The world is currently celebrating its first IHW with meetings, devotions, the publication of academic papers & of religious statements, & with special press coverage in a number of countries.
This initiative, started by H. M. King Abdullah II of Jordan & supported by many civil & religious leaders from all over the world, is a constructive & structured manner for people of faith to harness religion for the common good, through an emphasis on tolerance & a deliberate discovery of what mankind has in common.
“Religious harmony does not happen easily or spontaneously ; it requires a conscious decision to patiently seek & build convergence between different traditions.”
The United Nations General Assembly passes a stack of resolutions every year and many of them go all but unnoticed. One such document just approved in New York established a new World Interfaith Harmony Week. High-minded resolutions put most news junkies to sleep, so it’s probably no surprise this one got such scant media coverage (see here and here). But there’s more to this one than meets the glazed-over eye.
The resolution, accepted by consensus on Wednesday, urged all member states to designate the first week of February every year as the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It asked them to “support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week based on Love of God and Love of the Neighbour, or based on Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.”
Amid the standard legal wording of U.N. resolutions, that phrase “Love of God and Love of the Neighbour” stands out both as a rare example of religious belief in an official document like this and an unmistakable hint at the authorship of this text. Readers of this blog will recognise it as a trademark phrase of the Common Word group, the Muslim scholars who have been pursuing better interfaith understanding through dialogue with Christian churches. They’ve held a number of conferences with different churches and two of the manifesto’s signatories last week became the first Muslims to address a Vatican synod of bishops. Now the group is pursuing its mission on the diplomatic stage with an appeal to governments to help foster interfaith contacts.
Before the vote on Wednesday, Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal presented the resolution to the General Assembly. In his speech (full text here), Ghazi, who is coordinator of the Common Word group, provided details on the thinking behind this initiative. “Our world is rife with religious tension and, sadly, mistrust, dislike and hatred,” he said. “The misuse or abuse of religions can thus be a cause of world strife, whereas religions should be a great foundation for facilitating world peace.”