SGI Representative Participates in UN Interfaith Dialogue
On October 4, 2007 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly convened its first-ever High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace at the UN Headquarters in New York. The event, initially scheduled to be a two-day meeting, spilled over into a third day due to keen interest from over 80 representatives from governments and other groups that attended.
Following the intergovernmental meeting, an informal interactive hearing with civil society representatives was held in the afternoon on October 4, to provide an opportunity for representatives of UN member states to engage in dialogue with experts from civil society, including representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, academia, the media and faith-based organizations. The hearing featured two panel discussions on challenges and best practices of interreligious and intercultural cooperation. Unlike other civil society sessions, the interactive hearing attracted a large attendance from the UN member states.
After the General Assembly decided in December 2006 to convene the High-level Dialogue, the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN and the concerned UN agencies held a series of preliminary discussions with UN member states. As a result, in May 2007, the General Assembly adopted a follow-up resolution which included the convening of an informal interactive hearing with civil society representatives in conjunction with the High-level Dialogue.
A Civil Society Task Force was formed to prepare and organize the hearing and Hiro Sakurai, SGI's UN liaison officer in New York and former president of the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN, was invited to serve on it. Members of the task force worked for four months to help ensure effective civil society participation at the High-level Dialogue and interactive hearing.
Mr. Sakurai commented that it was significant that the High-level Dialogue was convened by the General Assembly, the UN's central body comprised of all the 192 member states. He also noted that after the attacks on September 11, 2001, and in response to increasing threats of terrorism, there has been a growing interest in interreligious, intercivilizational and intercultural dialogue and cooperation.
In his closing statement at the High-level Dialogue, General Assembly President H.E. Dr. Srgjan Kerim thanked the civil society panelists and representatives for enriching the debate and appreciated the active participation and prominent attendance of the member states. Remarking that open and sustained dialogue and respect for freedom of expression and religious belief are fundamental to the endeavor to promote a culture of peace, Dr. Kerim hoped the General Assembly would continue this meaningful interaction with civil society on these issues.
[Adapted from an article in the November 20, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Japan and a report from SGI UN Liaison Officer Hiro Sakurai in New York]