Conference on Interfaith Cooperation Held at UN Headquarters in New York, New York, USA; SGI UN Representative Speaks
The Conference on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace was held on June 22 at the UN Headquarters and brought together more than 400 representatives from the UN, governments, and civil society. Convened by 17 Member States, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNESCO, the World Bank, and the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN, the conference aimed at enhancing interfaith dialogue and cooperation towards peace in the 21st Century.
The one-day conference was opened by Alberto G. Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, and followed by messages from President Arroyo of the Philippines, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura. President of the General Assembly Jean Ping and President of Economic and Social Council Munir Akram were also present for the opening ceremony. SGI representative Hiro Sakurai also spoke as President of the Committee of Religious NGOs.
Mr. Sakurai characterized the current challenge to secure lasting peace facing human societies as needing to be based on strengthening interfaith understanding, to "build a culture of peace and banish forever the primitive strategies of violence and war." He said religious groups have deep influence in their communities and societies, and their beliefs touch people at the most personal level. According to Mr. Sakurai, religions inspire people and transform their words, deeds and thoughts, thus counteracting egotism, a fundamental cause of fear and violence. Mr. Sakurai also stressed that the religious community offers "hope that stems from a rooted belief in as yet unrealized possibilities" and that faith in such positive possibilities is "the vital prerequisite for meaningful dialogue."
The morning session focused on the role of religions in promoting intercultural understanding towards sustainable peace chaired by Professor Diana Eck of Harvard University, and the afternoon session focused on exploring strategies to enhance interfaith cooperation for sustainable peace chaired by former UN Under-Secretary-General Giandomenico Picco.
The conference ended with the participants concurring on the need for greater cooperation in inter-religious dialogues that can foster relationships and interdependence, while advancing "understanding between diverse peoples, cultures and religions."