Symposium Highlights Why Collaborations Between UN, Faith-based Groups are Paramount

Ms Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (UNOSAPG), speaks at the high level segment of the 10th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs, accompanied by the moderators of the session, Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, ACT Alliance general secretary, and Ms Simona Cruciani, Senior Political Affairs Officer, UN Office of the UNOSAPG.
Ms Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (UNOSAPG), speaks at the high level segment of the 10th Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-based Organizations in International Affairs, accompanied by the moderators of the session, Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, ACT Alliance general secretary, and Ms Simona Cruciani, Senior Political Affairs Officer, UN Office of the UNOSAPG. (photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC)
By World Council of ChurchesJanuary 25th, 2024

More than 20 speakers reflected on the theme “Human Rights and Dignity: Towards a Just, Peaceable, and Inclusive Future.”

The symposium, organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and a coalition of faith-based and UN partners, featured UN officials, representatives of international faith-based organizations, and other experts. 

A pivotal moment 

Welcoming people to the symposium, Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary of the ACT Alliance, underscored the importance of the symposium’s tenth year. 

“Over the years, this has been a space where UN agencies and faith-based organizations have been working together,” he said. “We know that it’s important for us to solve the problems we have today in a good way and in a cooperative way.”

Part of the opening session with high-level speakers, WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay said that making the tenth year of the symposium was a pivotal moment. 

“This pivotal moment not only marks a decade of robust dialogue and collaboration but also underscores the indispensable role of faith-based actors in shaping a world where human rights are at the core of our collective aspirations,” he said. “We believe that God has placed us as caregivers and caretakers of this world, both the people and planet.”

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations under-secretary-general and special adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, agreed that the tenth anniversary of the symposium was an important milestone. 

She described the mandate of her office and of the UN Genocide Convention, as well as the importance of the UN working cooperatively with faith-based organizations to achieve that mandate. 

“The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty that was adopted unilaterally,” she explained. “Today 153 states have ratified the Genocide Convention.”

The UN office on the Prevention of Genocide points out risk factors across the world that may lead to genocides. 

Nderitu also shared some history of the Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who introduced the word “genocide” in 1944. “It took on great significance for him because, in the Holocaust, he lost 49 members of his family.”

She concluded her remarks by underscoring the importance that the UN work closely with faith-based groups, comparing them to instruments in a symphony orchestra. “We do know we can never work alone,” she said.

Three sessions

Following the opening, the symposium continued with three panel discussions: “Upholding Human Dignity: Respecting Rights, Flourishing Humanity,” “Gender Equality, Peace, and Eradicating Violence,” and “Key Learnings for a Just, Peaceable and Inclusive Future.”

Each session was followed with questions from the online audience. 

Speaking during the third panel discussion on key learnings, Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, spoke about the WCC’s work in Iraq to promote inclusive citizenship. 

He described the successful completion of a project to revise national educational curricula in Iraq, promoting inclusive education and pedagogy.

“First of all, what emerges from that experience is the absolutely critical impotence of recognition of and importance of ‘the other,’ ” said Prove. 

He also spoke of the grave consequences of allowing disconnection of human rights from peace and security. “We have to strive, on the religious side, to be more engaged, to build that bridge and not to expect others to build a bridge toward us,” he said. "There isn’t a hermetic seal around the religious sector.”

As de Faria offered the final closing remarks, he underscored how vital collaboration is for bringing about justice and peace.

“Collaborations become paramount in terms of the solutions that you find,” he said.

Originally from Webpage "The WCC"

CCD edited and reprinted with permission

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