World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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25 August 2000

Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders

WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser welcomes Kofi Annans efforts to bring civil society into a closer relationship with UNs work

Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), will give one of the addresses at the international gathering of world religious and spiritual leaders that opens at the United Nations (UN) in New York 28 August. He will be accompanied by Dr Hans Ucko, executive secretary of the WCCs team on Interreligious Relations and Dialogue. Some representatives of WCC member churches will also attend at the invitation of the UN.

Organizers say the event, the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, will bring 1000 representatives of the major religions and spiritual movements to the first such gathering ever held at the UN. It will be followed 5 September by the opening of this years UN General Assembly, designated the Millennium Assembly, and a Millennium Summit for heads of state and government 6-8 September.

Responding to the invitation he received from UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, Raiser welcomed such efforts to bring the broader sectors of civil society into a closer relationship with the UNs work. The Summit itself can serve usefully as "a further step" in the needed task of working out the role of civil society in a new world order, the WCC general secretary said. The WCC has been involved with the UN through the years, supports its basic values and objectives and has a mandate to represent the shared concerns of the WCCs member churches there, he said.

In recent years, the worlds economic and political sectors have shown renewed interest in the views of religious leaders, and the UN secretary-general is now seeking similar "moral-spiritual accompaniment", Raiser said. "Based on my exchanges with him, I believe his basic instinct is that a viable world order needs to be built on broader foundations than the nation states."

A draft "Commitment to World Peace" that will be proposed for adoption by the religious leaders pledges that they will "collaborate and partner with the United Nations internationally, regionally and locally for the achievement of peace in all its dimensions". The document would also commit them to bring renewed spiritual commitment to deal with the issues of violence, ethnic conflict, poverty, destruction of the environment and technologies that "degrade the human spirit". Raiser welcomed the document which he said reflected the WCCs own commitments.

Organizers of the Summit will also propose the establishment of an International Advisory Council of Religious and Spiritual Leaders that could work with the UN on a continuing basis.

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.