A prayer took shape within me last week while attending the U.N. Conference on Interfaith Harmony. What if there was a permanent standing body, just like the U.N., made up of representatives of all the religions of the world? Surely, such a council could do a lot to stop the use of religions to promote hatred and war.
The idea is that religious leaders would send a representative to such a United Religions Council and then all representatives would discuss matters related to their interactions and vote and pass resolutions. In my mind, this would lead to these representatives, sooner or later, admitting that their goals and orientations in life matched those of the other representatives. As a body, then, they would be able to publicly denounce any religious fraction that attempted to stir up hatred, intolerance and violence. The United Religions Council would have passed resolutions in advance defining such a group as ANTI-religious despite their claims. Such groups would be publicly castigated and called out on their offenses.
There are three tricky obstacles to creating such a Council. One is identifying the religious leaders and determining rank or power within the Council assigned to each denomination. Two is finding a permanent home for the Council that is agreeable to all religions and three is getting the religious leaders to commit to sending a representative.
The first problem could be solved by including all religions and all denominations of religions and giving them power based on the provable number of constituents that they have. The second problem is also solvable. Tokyo, Japan, seems like it would be amenable to all, as a relatively neutral place among the big religions. The third problem is possibly the toughest to accomplish but there has been no better chance for this than right now.
Right now, we have a Pope that is liberal and sensible concerning social welfare issues. It is possible that he would commit to participation in such a Council. Also, the Islamic denominations are under great pressure right now to connect with other religions because of the bad PR that ISIL is causing them. They would have much to gain from such a council. There is tremendously negative public opinion in the West right now not just for ISIL but also for Iranian Muslims. I imagine that Egypt and Turkey would love the chance to boost PR as well about their countries’ religion.
It boils down to Pope Francis, really. Without an amenable Pope there is not much chance of this Council forming. If the Pope joined, the other Christian denominations would have to follow suit.
The Hindu faith would also create a bit of a challenge as well because of its lack of clear central hierarchy but that would not impede the forming of the Council. That would give time for the Council to zero in on finding the Hindu leaders that the average Hindu would pay attention to; i.e.: who could credibly claim to have the ear of the Hindu people. Including all denominations of the Hindu faith would allow there to be many representatives, each with their own claim of followers.
Back to the UN Interfaith Council: thanks to all the groups that made this happen. Here are some links to the wonderful Interfaith efforts already happening in the U.S. and around the world that I made contact with through this UN event:
United Nations Alliance of Civilizations — the host for the Interfaith Harmony Conference
Even though the U.N. made this event and its success possible, interfaith issues should not be a long term subsidiary of the U.N. if real progress is to be made. The U.N. is very helpful in getting the idea going and gaining momentum but it is not a proper permanent location for these efforts. The U.N. has much in common with Interfaith Harmony but also does not share in some key issues. Where the U.N. and religions meet is obviously in charitable relief efforts. It is natural to religious persons to want to help the disenfranchised and the impoverished peoples around the world just as the U.N. has rightly focused on such issues. But religious people do so from a different standpoint and such charitable activity does not necessarily cause Interfaith Harmony. Two different religions doing the same disaster relief work in the same area may not cooperate at all without some additional prodding. An Interfaith Council can do such prodding but the U.N. cannot.
The simple fact is that a religion will never really feel bound by the U.N. This is because it is the UNITED NATIONS not the UNITED RELIGIONS. No one is more aware of the separations between Church and State that exists in most countries than the religions themselves. Many states are using this separation from religion to sanction the removal of any support for religions. The U.N. is a STATE body and not a religious one, therefore efforts at Interfaith Harmony must eventually find its own support and meet with the U.N. as an independent body not as a dependent one.
There are other good reasons for an Interfaith global council to distance itself from the U.N., eventually. These reasons stem from the limitations created by the politics that hinder the U.N. An Interfaith Council would want to be as free as possible from such politics.
In conclusion, I hope that you will join me in a prayer for the establishment of a permanent body representing the religions of the world, for greater peace and welfare for all peoples, all over the world.
Posted on February 9, 2016, in Spirituality & Religion and tagged interfaith center Interfaith Council, interfaith harmony, Pope Francis, the fuji declaration, Tokyo Japan, U.N., united nations alliance of civilizations, united religions initiative. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.