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Declaration of human responsibilities key to bridging the religious divide


Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and the InterAction Council (IAC) announced today they will launch a new book, Bridging the Divide: Religious Dialogue and Universal Ethics at the IAC’s 26th Annual Plenary Meeting in Sweden next week.

“Believing that religious misunderstanding has led to many conflicts, the IAC has made establishing multifaith dialogue and understanding one if its key priorities,” says the book’s editor Thomas Axworthy, chair of the CSD and IAC associate member. “This dialogue between world leaders who know power and religious leaders who represent faith is one of the most important and stimulating debates of our time.”

“I have been enriched by the meetings of the IAC ever since 1996 when Pierre Trudeau first invited me to join the experts group in Vienna,” he adds

The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, who has recently become co-chair of the Council, states “that this collection of papers combines insights from former leaders, academics, and religious experts on one of the most important issues today. I hope that it is the first of many Interaction Council contributions to world debate”.

Religion plays a unique role in the identity of the individual. Religious decisions involve every dimension of the human experience: personal ethics, values, faith and fundamental beliefs.

With insight from authors such as theologian Hans Küng, Confucian scholar Tu Wei-ming, Japanese Minister of Justice Seiken Sugiura, Islamic philosopher Abodolkarim Soroush and Islamic jurist Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd Bridging the Divide: Religious Dialogue and Universal Ethics looks at the role of religion in four parts: Part One, “The World’s Religions: Unity in Diversity?” argues that religious leaders must protect the integrity of their religion’s core values and combat religious extremism and the politicians who encourage it.

Helmut Schmidt, Former Chancellor of Germany, writes in his essay: “In some parts of the modern world, motives of power, under the guise of religion, are mixed with righteous anger about poverty and with envy at others’ prosperity. Religious missionary motives are mixed with excessive motives of power. In this context it is hard for the balanced, restrained voices of reason to gain attention.” The InterAction Council has responded to this problem by drafting a Declaration of Human Responsibilities and submitting it to the United Nations. “Written with help from representatives of all the great religions,” Schmidt concludes “The Declaration contains the fundamental principles of humanity.

Part Two, “Religious Influence: Towards Universal Ethics or Global Division?” shows that religious leaders have a significant role to play in harnessing the power of people to face global problems.

In Part Three, “Politics and Religion: Speaking Truth to Power or Power to Truth?” Oscar Arias, Malcolm Fraser and Helmut Schmidt, as members of the Council, write about how ethics informed their past actions and how it should inform and inspire today’s leaders.

Part Four, “Conclusions of the Council,” includes some of the Council’s most critical bodies of work such as 1997’s “A Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities.”

Since it was established 26 years ago, the IAC has commissioned papers from some of the world’s leading experts in law, ethics, energy, international finance, defence and foreign policy, and subsequently produced a number of published policy communiqués. This volume of edited papers is the first in a planned series and addresses the role of religion and the necessity for universal ethical standards.

The InterAction Council recognizes the generous support of this project provided by the OPEC Fund for International Development, the School of Policy Studies at Queen’s University in Canada, and the Government of Japan.

The InterAction Council was established in 1983 as an independent international organization to mobilize the experience, energy and international contacts of a group of statesmen who have held the highest office in their own countries. Council members jointly develop recommendations on, and practical solutions for, the political, economic and social problems confronting humanity.


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