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Race, Faith and World Peace : London Conference

These were the themes of the December 4 2013 conference at Hilton London Euston, "to explore a multi-faith vision of peace", UfP chair Vijay Mehta told the sixty attenders. Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, President, World Congress of Faiths, declared "despite Syria, people of faith acting together can make a real contribution to peace": the priority was "to repudiate using religion to justify violence." Faiths could help build a culture of peace by creating inter-faith understanding, deglamourising war, and shaping public opinion to remove causes of conflict, eg. economic injustice and arms trade. Faith representatives could help end wars through conflict resolution and brokering peace talks, and post-hostilities, could help 'heal the scars' by engaging in reconciliation of divided communities, stressing 'our shared humanity'. "Faiths offer us hope a better world is possible because it is God's promise." Moeen Yaseen,Founder-Director Global Vision 2000, on 'Towards a Universal Paradigm Shift' saw today's world facing 'a civilisational collapse'. Features of this 'end time' were: post-2008 financial-economic crisis; Western establishments seeing 'war as solution to the crisis'; US-led War on Terror actually a Warof Terror against mainly Muslim countries; change from unipolar world to complex multi-polar one; devaluation of language. All this indicated necessity for and movement to, a 'universal paradigm shift' towards a new 'moral political economy'. Affirming 'Islamic values', he stressed humans were moral and spiritual beings created by God for community, not homo economicus. Abusing this divine gift caused such evils as racial superiority.

Rev. Brian Cooper, UfP Churches & Inter-Faith Secretary, stressed the life and teaching of Jesus as foundation of Christian peacemaking: "peace and non-violence were at the heart of his mission, and down the centuries both inspiration and challenge to the Church and world at large." Early Church pacifism adapted to state power when Rome became Christian; the mediaeval Church tried to stop or limit warfare and violence, but struggles with Islam and Catholic-Protestant conflict saw 'Christian warfare' accepted. Europe's churches failed to prevent 1914-18 war between nominally Christian states, but Christians were much involved in 20th-century peace movements. Priorities today were anti-Trident activism, Christian-Muslim and inter-faith support for Middle East peace, and united faith action for disarmament and resource transfer to end global poverty.

V. Mehta stated "attaining holistic peace can lead to world peace. Universal application of inner and outer peace...brings tranquillity, harmony and reverence for life through philosophy of nonviolence, in a world beset by violence and wars." Racial discrimination caused ethnic conflicts; misuse of religion legitimised violence: both had countless victims. Humanity could break free: "once we transcend conditioned consciousness we will have vitality to transform ourselves as civilised human beings, not killing each other." UN 'World Conferences Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Religious Intolerance' had designated 1973-2003 to overcome these evils, yet much remained to be done. UK's Equality & Human Rights Commission 2012 review had focused ten areas for better race relations. All peacebuilding needed spiritual undergirding: "Buddhism and Hinduism advocate prayer, meditation and yoga for attaining inner peace and building a just and violence-free society."

Report by Brian Cooper & Daphne Smalling.

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