|© UNICEF/ HQ05-2150/ Pirozzi|
|A Muslim religious leader helps a child with his new toy at a UNICEF-supported early childhood development centre in Kinsenso, Democratic Republic of Congo.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 26 September 2006 – On the International Day of Peace, religious leaders around the world gathered at UN headquarters to promote a key element for peace-building and development – interfaith dialogue.
“Dialogue enables us to understand who we are,” said Resident Bishop from Sierra Leone, Rev. Joseph Humper. “And more importantly, dialogue helps us to understand whether or not we have things in common.
“We often misunderstand people because we are not allowing ourselves to listen to them, to hear their views. If we could do that I think things will take a much better turn,” continued Rev. Humper.
Along with the delegates from numerous religious organizations, representatives of UNICEF, UNESCO and several Permanent Missions to the United Nations also participated in the High-Level Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace.
Role of religions
“Since we have so many conflicts in today’s world that are expressed in religious terms, it’s more vital than ever that religious leaders play a role,” said the Director of the World Bank’s Development Dialogue on Values and Ethics, Katherine Marshall.
|© UNICEF/ HQ05-0406/ Mohan|
|Migrant workers from Myanmar attend a religious ceremony to remember their countrymen who died in the 2004 tsunami.|
During the one-day conference – held on 21 September – delegates looked closely at how religion influences women and young people, noting that these groups can have a great impact on fostering respect.
“Women are critical in peace-building,” said African Women's Project Director for Religions for Peace Jacqueline Moturi. “Their unique maternal responsibilities have put them in a strategic position to advance peace, as they can pass on the values to the people they care for, such as their husbands, the elderly and children.”
Power of dialogue
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah stressed the organization’s commitment to working with religious organizations in order to benefit children around the world.
“It is a proven fact that multi-religious cooperation can be much more powerful than individual religious groups acting alone,” said Ms. Salah.
“It is through advocacy and dialogue,” she added, “that religious leaders and religious communities can affect policy and raise consciousness for conflict prevention, peace-building and peacekeeping.”
International Day of Peace
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