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At a glance: Japan

UNICEF Executive Director urges world religious leaders to advance women’s rights

© UNICEF Japan/2006
At a Religions for Peace VIII World Assembly press conference (from right): UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, Religions for Peace Secretary-General Dr. William Vendley and Rissho Kosei-kai President Rev. Nichiko Niwano.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, USA, 28 August 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has appealed to the religions of the world to help advance the cause of women’s rights.

During a 25 August keynote address at the Women's Assembly of the Religions for Peace VIII World Assembly, a one-week summit of religious communities, Ms. Veneman noted that religions have the power to change deeply held values.

“The authoritative voice of religious institutions is vital because much of the gender inequality that exists has historically been justified by reasons of culture, tradition or religion,” Ms. Veneman told the assembly in Kyoto, Japan.

Peace and development

“Religion must be a tool to help address unequal treatment rather than a means of perpetuating it,” she said, adding that peace and sustainable development are more attainable when women are in control of their destinies.

Ms. Veneman also participated in the opening ceremony of the full World Assembly on 26 August and addressed the plenary session – which included an audience of some 2,000 religious leaders from all over the world. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan addressed the plenary as well, and His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan moderated the proceedings.

The full Assembly went on to adopt a Declaration on Violence Against Children, which commits religious communities to confront violence against children and protect children in their communities.

© UNICEF Japan/2006/Kitada
Religions for Peace Youth Assembly keynote speaker and former child soldier Ishmael Beah with UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman at the meeting of world religious leaders in Kyoto, Japan.

‘Hiroshima Declaration’ against violence

Also under the auspices of Religions for Peace, an international Youth Assembly met last week in Hiroshima, where Ishmael Beah, 25, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, delivered the keynote address. He described how he lost his family to war, was forced into armed conflict and came to see that revenge only escalates the cycle of violence.

“It is of paramount importance that religious groups not only partner with each other,” he said, “but also seek partnership with non-governmental organizations to work towards healing and transforming communities, building peace in post-conflict nations and educating people about peace as a better alternative to violence.”

On the final day of the Youth Assembly, delegates travelled to Kyoto for the remaining sessions of the Religions for Peace meeting, where they presented a call to action dubbed the ‘Hiroshima Declaration’. The statement calls on religious leaders to reach out to young people and listen to their unique perspectives on confronting violence and advancing shared security worldwide.




26 August 2006:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman addresses the press following the opening ceremony of the Religions for Peace VIIIth World Assembly.
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25 August 2006:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s keynote remarks to the Religions for Peace Women’s Assembly.
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21 August 2006:
Activist and former child soldier Ishmael Beah shares his views on children involved in armed conflict.
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Related links

Religions for Peace Youth Assembly opens in Japan to promote non-violence [with video]

Humanitarian policy and action: Children and armed conflict

Voices of youth

The following external links open in a new window:

Kyoto 2006: World Conference of Religions for Peace

‘Religions for Peace’ World Assembly website

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