World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit spoke on 7 November at a Muslim World League symposium in Geneva entitled “The Role of Religions on the Strengthening of World Peace.”
Tveit spoke about peacemaking as a common agenda and the highest priority for the diverse religious leaders gathering to highlight the contribution of religions to a positive life opposed to all forms of violence and the need for peace in human societies.
“We meet at a critical time for Europe, for the Middle East, and for many regions in the world, where there are signs of division and polarization in peoples and nations, and in many places faith itself has become a dividing factor,” said Tveit. “We see this in many parts of the world.”
Men and women of faith, and specifically religious leaders have a special responsibility to elevate the sanctity of the life of all human beings created by the Holy God, continued Tveit.
“We acknowledge that we all are vulnerable and that we all have equal needs for protection and for human rights,” he said. “Authorities of states are responsible for providing the frameworks for this, so that we all are treated with equal rights and given the same responsibilities.”
This corresponds in several ways to the concept of citizenship,” Tveit explained. “The principle of citizenship is, therefore, in my view, a proper way to express in the realm of politics something that is also important in our faith in God,” he said. “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.”
Different people should have the same basis and security for their lives and for their children’s lives, and for their grandchildren’s lives, he reflected. “In the framework of a state and in the international community of states, we need principles that care for the justice and peace of all,” he said. “We need to give equal protection to all against injustices and violence.”
Violence in the name of religion cannot be done without violating the values of religion, Tveit continued. “Violence in the name of God towards those who are created in the image of God becomes violence against God,” he said. “We are from the beginning to the end accountable to God.”
Our differences must not stop us working together for peace, he reflected. “We share the truth about the love of God and the will of God, as we also search for the truth about the reality in which we live in our different contexts,” he said. “The reality of the grace of God that we share is mixed with the reality of sin.”
We want to work together and with all human beings and communities of faith for the greater good of our world, he concluded. “This vision of diversity in unity is also a gift that we want to bring to the wider table of interreligious cooperation, of men, women and children of many different religions working together for global peace with justice for all human beings, and indeed for the welfare of the earth itself,” he said. “As religious leaders, gathered today for peace, we have the duty of speaking with one voice, particularly against any advocacy of hatred that amounts to inciting violence, discrimination or any other violation of the equal dignity that all human beings enjoy regardless of their religion, belief, gender, political or other opinion, national or social origin, or any other status.”