Religion's peace role is critical: church body leader

(Photo: United Nations)UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson speaks at a press conference in New York on October 2, 2012.

Religion has a critical role in peace and justice work, a global church body leader told a top United Nations official during a discussion on conflicts and divisions around the world.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches met with United Nations deputy secretary-general Jan Eliasson on Tuesday to discuss many conflicts and division around the world, the WCC said.

Each noted the tendency of groups and nations to demonize "the other," and the role religions have played in those situations, according to the report.

Situations discussed included North and South Korea, the Middle East region, and particularly Syria and Israel-Palestine.

"Religion has a critical role in the work of peace and justice. I'm convinced that the World Council of Churches is called to offer an alternative common voice in the public sphere," Rev. Tveit said.

Eliasson said it was necessary to "mobilize all actors" to take on their individual roles in order to achieve peace and development. He said he welcomed the WCC's contributions.

"There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and for lasting peace and sustainable development there must be respect for human rights and the rule of law," Eliasson said.

"Given all that plagues the world today, no one institution like the UN or any other can address these all on its own. We must mobilize all actors, with each actor doing its part," he added. "To this end, we welcome any such partnerships with the World Council of Churches."

Among the WCC staff participating in the meeting were Margareta Grape, WCC representative to the UN, Dr. Isabel Phiri, associate general for public witness and diakonia, and Rev. Garland F. Pierce, senior assistant to the general secretary.

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