August 4, 2008

Conference calls for UN interfaith body

by David Masters

Delegates at the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid have called upon the United Nations to create an interreligious council.

The Saudi-funded three day conference, held last month in Madrid, was attended by 250 religious leaders from 50 countries.

Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and other faiths were all represented.

A report from the conference asked the United Nations General Assembly to support the results of the conference, and use them to promote dialogue among the followers of religions, civilisations and cultures, through a special UN session on dialogue.

If a UN interreligious council was created, it would have the same status as UNESCO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Saudi organisers at the conference dismissed criticism that Israelis and Palestinians were not properly represented, arguing that they had invited participants from all faiths.

Rabbi David Rosen, the only participant from Israel, said the conference was an major advance in interfaith relations because it was organised by Saudi Arabia – a heartland of Islamic conservatism.

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