By February 17, 2016 Read More →

Promoting Peace and Reconciliation to Counter Violent Extremism

Focus on Faith Briefing

United Nations HQ, New York

Thursday, February 4, 2016



It was a packed room as many representatives of various religions and faith traditions prepared to discuss how religion can do justice to promoting peace and reconciliation.

Moderating the morning proceedings was Mr. Jeffrey Brez, Chief of NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special events in the Department of Public Information.  On the panel were:

Edward J. Flynn – Senior Human Rights Officer, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED)

Rev Chloe Breyer – Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York

Azza Karam – Senior Advisor on Culture, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Rev Victor Kazanjian – Executive Director, United Religions Initiative (URI)

Fr. Roger Landry – Attaché, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations

Matthew Hodes – Director of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.

Speakers were from a wide cross-section, so many areas of concern were addressed. There was a greater sense of inclusiveness of each tradition and instead of speakers describing their faith, they shared more of what are common among religions. For example: respect for the dignity of every human being is essential as everyone is loved equally by God; we need to teach people to pray, not to fight; educating people to “be the peace” as is the God they worship.

The golden rule was emphasized: treat others the way you would like them to treat you. It was brought to the attention of the religious leaders that they need to be aware of how religion is being used to support violence. As Mr. Flynn mentioned, “Freedom of religion does not mean if a religious institution is promoting violence, Human Rights cannot step in.”

It was stated that an ‘all-society’ approach is recommended for there to be counter terrorism.

Youth should also be brought into the conversation and the role of women needs to be addressed.

In essence, the role of religious leaders is

  • to fight intolerance
  • to stick to religious principles – humanitarianism
  • not to define what the religious texts say but to hold the truth of the sacred texts with more conviction.
  • to deal with the underlying causes.

We were reminded that Faith is very much part of our culture, and so we need to have a more ‘holistic’  attitude towards our communities.   Today, our culture has become one where violence is normal.  It is necessary to address this concern by removing the divisions of ‘youth’, ‘woman’, ‘religious leaders’, and so on, and begin to see ourselves for who we really are – one human family.  Dr. Azza Karam remarked in her presentation: “who do we exclude because we can’t see?  Who do we include when we do see?  If religious leaders had done their part, ISIS won’t have happened.”

Few recommendations were made:

  • clean each other’s place of worship.
  • work at the grass root level.
  • offer videos on anti-recruiting as a global initiative.
  • by making schools and households secular, children and youth are more susceptible to being manipulated by ISIS. Home education is very, very important.
  • create non-violent video games.

In conclusion,

Who are we? What does religion really mean? Could it be possible that we can transcend the consciousness of ‘my religion’ and ‘your religion’ and accept each one as a child of God, brothers? We are all here for the same purpose: To be happy and share happiness; to live and let others live.

For more information and photos:

Posted in: Interfaith

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