World Council of Churches Office of Communication
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30 August 2000

Religious leaders should have "something to say about dialogue in the sphere of global governance": Konrad Raiser addresses Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders

cf. WCC Press Release, PR-00-22, of 25 August 2000

The Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), told a gathering of religious leaders 29 August that he hoped they would "deny the sanction of religion to those who seek to make it a tool of violence".

"All true religion wills justice, peace and harmony," he said to an international interreligious audience which filled the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York. "Yet, as we engage here in dialogue, we are conscious of the fact that wars are being fought in many parts of the world appealing to the name of religion."

Raiser spoke on the second day of a four-day (28-31 August) Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

Preceding the "Call to Dialogue" session in which Raiser participated, UN secretary-general Kofi A. Annan gave an inaugural address, calling the event "one of the most inspiring gatherings ever held here" and declaring his strong support for freedom of religion.

Raiser said summit participants were gathering at a time of movement away from "an age of secularism which tended to despise religion", and when people were again looking to religion as a source of spiritual values. But religion continues to suffer misuse by powerful people "whose interests have little to do with religion, faith or the spirituality of believers," he said.

Looking out over a hall filled with representatives of all the world's major religions and spiritual traditions, many of them notable for the display of their diversity of religious dress, Raiser said the summit goal was not to establish "an amalgam of spiritual truth".

"Rather, we seek ways to create a global culture of mutual respect which will provide a model to those who bear responsibility for governance at all levels of society," he said.

Acknowledging that the religious leaders could not pretend to assume the responsibilities of government, Raiser suggested they should nonetheless have "something to say about dialogue in the sphere of global governance".

In a passage that drew applause, he lamented "the lack of civil courage and statesmanship of many government leaders who have been more concerned about the preservation of national self-interests - and often their own personal privileges - than for the collective interests of the peoples of the United Nations".

Raiser reported that the WCC planned to launch a Decade to Overcome Violence next February in Berlin, and described the launch as "an invitation to all".

At a reception at the Church Center for the UN, Raiser praised the summit for emphasizing that the religious and spiritual dimension cannot be separated from the world 's political, social and economic life.

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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.