United Nations Wakes up to Religion

News April 2007

Meeting in progress

New York, New York... The United Nations (UN) is waking up to the role that religious organizations can play in meeting its goals--particularly in the area of social, development and peace issues.

"It's intriguing that the UN has finally discovered religion," said Jonathan Gallagher, UN representative of the International Religious Liberty Association. "In recent meetings, particularly one on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, speakers have recognized the role faith organizations can play in improving our world."

"There is no better time than now for inter-religious dialogue and peace," said the Ambassador of the Philippines, Hilario G. Davide, speaking at the Report on Interreligious Dialogue held at the UN on April 18.

The meeting, organized by the Committee of Religious Non-governmental Organizations at the UN, will not be the last to urge UN member states to reflect on steps toward more peaceable, cooperative relations among world religions and faith groups. Davide highlighted upcoming high-level dialogues on religion to be held at the UN in May.

"Only five years ago this would have been unheard of," observed Azza Karam, Culture Advisor for the UN Population Fund, "but now inter-faith dialogue is mushrooming. Many UN agencies are waking up to working with faith-based organizations."

Emmanuel Kattan, of the Alliance of Civilizations, promoted the importance of cross-cultural understanding and inter-faith dialogue. "Religious communities are sustaining concrete roles in education, with youth, and in the media. The contribution of religious non-government organizations has to be realized and built on."

Commenting on how the perceived role of religious organizations is changing, IRLA vice-president Rajmund Dabrowski noted a rising interest in the contribution of religious organizations. "From a communication perspective, many multi-national organizations are realizing that faith communities play a vital role in their communities, and can contribute much to the development of society," he said.

"It is worth noting that the UN is also recognizing this role that the church can play. Of course, unlimited religious influence over the UN would be counter-productive; however, the new-found openness to the role played by organizations of faith should be commended," Dabrowski said.[IRLA News/ANN]