Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 60 – January 2009

World religious leaders commit to uphold human rights

The World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia was one of ten world religious leaders who signed a statement entitled "Faith in Human Rights" at an International Inter-religious Conference in The Hague, Netherlands on Wednesday, 10 December 2008.

The ceremony, in the presence of a large number of national and international dignitaries and human rights activists, celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948.

The statement acknowledges "that sadly enough religion sometimes is being misused in a way which violates human rights". At the same time, wanting to stress that "religion has been a primary source of inspiration for human rights", it quoted the following extracts from the sacred writings and teachings of different faiths:

  • "Someone who saves a person's life is equal to someone who saves the life of all." (Qu'ran 5:32);
  • "A single person was created in the world, to teach that if anyone causes a single person to perish, he has destroyed the entire world; and if anyone saves a single soul, he has saved the entire world." (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5);
  • "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself." (Luke 10:27);
  • "Let us stand together, make statements collectively and may our thoughts be one" (Rigveda 10:191:2);
  • "Just as I protect myself from unpleasant things however small, in the same way I should act towards others with a compassionate and caring mind" (Shantideva, A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life);
  • "Let us put our minds together to see what life we can make for our children" (Chief Sitting Bull, Lakota).

The signatories also committed to contribute to a fuller implementation of human rights: "Religion has to stand for peace, reconciliation, universal values, mutual respect and upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Our faith traditions have been and are capable of providing inspiration and guidance towards realising these aims. We wish to reiterate our commitment to respect all human rights for all, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

In a comment on the signing of the statement, Dr Kobia said it was the role of religious leaders to "study carefully our respective holy scriptures and teachings" in view of defending human rights.

"We need to address situations where harm has been done in the name of religion, promote forgiveness, reconciliation and healing in order to foster mutual respect and understanding among our communities, and stimulate interfaith co-operation with mutual respect," he added.

Other signatories included the Dalai Lama; the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as well as representatives of Judaism, Islam and other religions of the world.

(The full text of the statement "Faith in Human Rights" and the opportunity to be a signatory supporting the statement can be found on: www.faithinhumanrights.org)

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