Religious Leaders’ Plea to Member States: Honour Your Commitment to the UN

Religious Leaders of Religions for Peace International

18 OCT 2019 |PARIS, JERUSALEM, BEIRUT, NEW DELHI, TOKYO – IPS) On the 8th of October, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the organisation is running out of money by the end of October – “member States have paid only 70 percent of the total amount needed for [our] regular budget”.

United Nations LogoThis is the same institution, whose Charter first took effect on October 24, 1945, after a world war where an estimated total of 70–85 million people perished (i.e. about 3% of the 1940 world population).

The United Nations was created to “reaffirm faith … in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small… and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom…”

It is often forgotten that the purposes of the United Nations, are in alignment with the values of all faith traditions. It is also forgotten that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was predicated upon the values shared by all faith traditions.

As faith leaders, we have our temples, mosques, churches, synagogues and countless related institutions – and pulpits – which, as history has proven time and again, are impossible to replace. Indeed, our religious institutions significantly predate most member states of the United Nations.

Our faiths call upon us to believe in that which is transcendental and otherworldly, and to serve every living being to live in peace and dignity. Through centuries of existence, we have learned to appreciate the value of coming together on what we agree, to serve all regardless of any, and all, differences.

And in the countless efforts to do so, we appreciate and respect the challenges of convening the diversity of Divine creation around a set of shared values and purposes.

That is why we appreciate and respect the United Nations system.

The United Nations was created, is maintained, and serves, governments (and those with observer status). Governments are critical rights’ holders of members of their respective societies. Governments themselves know that to uphold the rights and serve their peoples – even within national boundaries – requires transcending their own singular capabilities.

There is a humility – and a grandeur – of human spirit, which is impossible to capture in any institution. Yet it is precisely that humility and grandeur which is required by “we the peoples” – as stated in the UN Charter – to appreciate and honour an institution built to represent and serve 193 governments and political representations.




The World Health Organisation, a specialised agency of the UN, led the charge in the eradication of smallpox; UNICEF, the UN division focused on child welfare, says it has helped save the lives of more than 90 million children since 1990.

Over the last two and a half decades, the UN has assisted in efforts to help more than 1 billion escape extreme poverty, 2.1 billion people access improved sanitation facilities, and 2.6 billion people access improved sources of drinking water. These accomplishments matter for billions of people.

As people of faith, and as pragmatists who lead respective institutions, we must ask ourselves: who else is willing and able to serve these very same responsibilities – at comparable scale? Our faith institutions have long served those needs. But the lesson learned time and again, is that our religious institutions, also, are necessary, but insufficient.

Our faiths call upon us, in different ways, essentially, “to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security…” – the very same words of the UN Charter.

Precisely because we are faith leaders, from all faiths, from different corners of the world, with the longest legacy of serving communities, we can say with utter conviction, that our world needs a United Nations.

Today, perhaps more than ever – as winds of war and countless conflicts continue to sweep our shores, as massive fires scorch or flood our ecosystem, as the largest number of displaced people ever, stand at the gates of many of our nations while multitudes perish seeking life – today, the need for this unique multilateral space, is a moral imperative.

As leaders representing the only platform of all faith institutions, from all over the world, we, members of Religions for Peace, on the eve of our own 50th year, humbly – and yet determinedly – and with one voice, call upon the governments who owe their dues, to uphold the rights of all peoples, by honouring the commitment towards the only world institution that represents – and serves – the peoples of the world.

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