By September 20, 2013 Read More →

The Role of Faith and Religion in Strengthening and Maintaining Peace and Human Rights

23rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva (27 May–14 June 2013)

A panel organised by the
Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University
on 13th June, 2013, with the sponsorship of
The Spanish Society for International Human Rights Law (SSIHRL),
International Observatory on the Human Rights to Peace (IOHRP)
International Association of Peace Messenger Cities (IAPMC)
Foundation Dialogue Among Civilizations


The objective of this event was to have an exchange and reach a possible common understanding among NGOs and other stakeholders on the importance of faith and religions in times of conflict and disaster, in order to foster peace and non-violence in communities.p>

The panel was moderated by Valeriane Bernard who, by way of introduction, shared that religions are the way God has been expressing Himself to people. So too, they are expressions of the spiritual endeavour within all cultures.p>

“Human rights mechanisms and most treaties and laws convey people’s aspirations to live in peace, as they live dedicated to frameworks of values in order to preserve harmonious life.”p>

H.E. Silvano M. Tomasi, 
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer for the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva expressed peace as being a gift from God, sought and obtained from up above. For him, at the human level, peace involves reconciliation. Dialogue, forgiveness and solidarity are central to this process. “Peace is also a response of love. Christ said: ‘Love your neighbours as you love yourself.’ This urge requires a vision of dignity for all people.”p>


“This is the correct understanding about human beings who will bring peace. There needs to be truth in the human person. We need to overcome the ethnocentric approach to peace and enlarge the vision to solidarity. We also need to take into account the past; in war, everything is lost.”p>

Dr. Alfred de Zayas, the United Nations Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, gave importance to the ethics and the morality in human rights and rights to peace. He shared his vision that, as a Catholic, the human right to peace is deeply connected to religious understanding of the role and duties of human beings. Thus, it is important to understand the spirit of the human rights charter. “We need to respect the dignity and the rights for all. A legal and secular approach to peace can be dry and this is why it is essential to understand human rights and rights to peace from a moral prospective.”p>

Ms. Christina Papazoglou is the Programme Executive for Human Rights of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which concentrates on peace, justice and human rights, peace making and peace building. She explained that WCC is a faith-based organisation, which at the grass roots level, often mitigates efforts of violence and war to reconcile ethnic passions. This agency has the potential to act as an agent of peace ocally in cases of conflict. In its role as a third party mediator, WCC allows different parties to understand the religion of others. It is often called upon to facilitate natural and internal peace processes, in order to re-harmonise the relationships damaged by conflict.
Sr. Jayanti Kirpalani, representative for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU), shared her view that only the inner faith of people can bring them back to peace because peace is a spiritual dimension. And as such needs to be studied. In this way, it is also a matter of education. Unless there is a transformation in human hearts, there cannot be peace.p>

“Peace is linked to kindness and compassion.” Sharing her experience of a recent trip to Bhutan where she met with young leaders, Sr. Jayanti spoke about their lives and their mind-set as examples of how faith can be translated into actions to establish peace and well being in a community, in society and the world. “Truth, purity, wisdom non-violence and compassion are the natural state of the human being and through our practical actions, we can allow this to re-emerge and inspire the life of others.”p>

Dr. Fawzia Al Ashmawi, Representative of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), explained that although the word Islam is derived from ‘salam’ meaning ‘peace’, Islam is often misunderstood. “In Islam, aggression is forbidden. But the religious person has the duty to respond to aggression to protect him or herself.” She then also shared how in her view, two factors have shaped violence in the history of Islam: firstly, the Crusades and secondly, that the difference in the theory and the application of Islam, for centuries, stems from the interpretation of its scholars, most of whom have been men.p>

Mr. Amiri Vahid, Research Representative for the Foundation Dialogue Among Civilizations (FDC) highlighted the historical and contemporary evidence that all religions and ideologies, whether man-made or divinely inspired, may be used as instruments for serving human politics and self-interest. Equally, religion can also be instrumental in promoting social harmony, peace and rapprochement among human societies.p>

He asserted that since cultures involve ways people go about their lives and values, as well as the different processes that make life meaningful, there can be no such thing as a closed culture. “Cultures are salient not static. They are constantly changing and developing. We now need to change from a dialogue of cultures to a culture of dialogue and from a civilizational dialogue to a civilized dialogue.”p>

Ms. Beatriz Schulthess, Representative of Indigenous Peoples Ancestral Spiritual Council and World Conference on Religion for Peace, shared how in the indigenous cosmo-vision, children are taught from a young age about Patcha Tata and Patcha Mama, that is to respectful of Mother Earth as well as the energy from beyond. They are also taught about the principles of complementarity and reciprocity as being the foundation of peace and harmony.p>

She then added that indigenous communities believe the intention of the Creator was for each of us to complete each other. In this way, an economy based on complementarity and reciprocity allows people to plant harvest and share together, allowing life to make sense. This is known as buen vivir.p>

Mr. Heinz Ferschin,
President of Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) shared how goodness and peace sit at the heart of Buddhism. This is reflected in how the BLIA takes care of the needy and encourages people to perform beneficial and beautiful acts.p>

He shared the five different types of peace that are needed to achieve peace: peace in the mind (positive insight); peace in the family (respect each other); peace with each other (free of conflict) and peace in society. These five steps will nurture a peaceful world.p>

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