World Conference on Human Rights and Religion emphasizes Equal Citizenship to Curb Conflict

(Father Joseph Varghese)

Geneva, Switzerland. June 25, 2018.

The first World Conference on “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” was held on June 25, 2018 at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Speakers at a world conference on human rights and religion at the United Nations in Geneva have stressed the need for equal citizenship rights to counter xenophobia and discrimination.

The Conference was sponsored by the United Nations in corporation with multi religious and faith organizations world-wide. The conference was held under the patronage of Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and was addressed by more than 25 religious, political and lay leaders from the major regions of the world.

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gueterras, addressed the opening session through a live video webcast. Also present and address the Conference was former secretary and special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, Sheikh Halid Bentounes, Professor Von Senger of the Confusions, HE Amar Mousa, former Arab League Secretary General are among the distinguished people address the conference.

HE Prince El Hassan bi Talal said “Together we can share responsibility of challenging conventional thinking about the underlying causes of loss of human dignity, marginalization and oppression”.

In opening remarks, the director general of the International Organization for Migration, William Lacy Swing, spoke of the immense difficulties for people on the move in the world these days in an especially “toxic environment”.

“The principle of citizenship belongs to the realm of politics and legal systems, but can provide the rights and the protection we need whoever we are and whatever faith community we belong to.

“Hence, it is all the more necessary for people from different religions, creeds and value systems to unite together for the cause of equal citizenship as an antidote to the scourge of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance.”

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said, “The need for equal citizenship rights is timely in a global context such as ours – which has seen the rise of instrumentalization of religion for deeply polarizing causes.”

included representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism

Tveit explained WCC’s long involvement in protecting human rights and promoting dignity while always focussing on those “most vulnerable” and also working through the United Nations since its inception 70 years ago, the same year WCC was created.

“In such a context the call to equal citizenship is also actively a call to solidarity to safeguard some of the basic rights of all including the protection of freedom of religion and belief.”

Sunni Islam expert Dr Ahmed Al-Dawoody, International Committee for the Red Cross legal adviser on Islamic Law and Jurisprudence and assistant professor at Al-Azhar University, quoted from the Quran the words of God in creating a “sense of unity” which “necessitates equality among humankind and that there is no room for discrimination among people.”

He also noted that in his Farewell Sermon on 6 March 632, Prophet Muhammad reinforced the same concept:

‘One ancestry’

“All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam, and Adam was created out of clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; or for white over the black or for the black over the white except in piety.”

Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, secretary general of the International Catholic Migration Commission delivered a message on behalf of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

He said, “Equality among all the members of the one human family is a fundamental value. This equality has its origin in ‘One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God.

“This is why no one, no ethnic, religious or political group can claim more rights than others because of their belonging to a particular ethnicity, religion or a political party,” said Vitillo.

There are experts, religious leaders, government officials, former United Nation’s secretaries and academicians from across the world attend the conference. Dr. Majeda Omar of Royal Institute for Inter-Faith studies from Jordan; Fernande de Varennes, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Faisal A. Bin Muammar, Secretary General of KAICIID Dialogue Centre, Austria; Mark Siljander, former Congressman and Ambassador of the United States; Lundeg Purevsuren, Mongolian Ambassador to the UN; Bawa Jain of the World Council of Religious Leaders, New York; H.H. Swami Paramatmananda Swarswati of Hindhu Dharma Acharya Sabha, India; Father Joseph Varghese of the Religions for Peace USA are some of the attendees of the Conference.

Pursuant to the 2030 UN agenda on sustainable Development to promote peace, mutual respect and understanding across cultures and generations, the objective of this conference was:

1. To harness the collective energy and convergence of religions, creeds and value-systems celebrating diversity and multiculturalism offering the power and the space for the affirmation of equal citizenship rights.

2. To give recognition to all social components of society irrespective of their origin, faith, status, gender or disability.

3. To recognize a set of shared core inalienable principles providing new foundations for joint action by people of all religions, beliefs and value systems to advance equal

citizenship rights of all peoples, in full alignment with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by all states.

The outcome of Declaration of the World Conference will be offered as a milestone in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

(Father Joseph Varghese is an invitee to the World Conference representing the Religions for Peace in USA.)