Religion, Women and Peacebuilding Seminar Series Launched

Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook

The Religions for Peace Global Women of Faith Network, in collaboration with United Nations Women, Princeton University Office for Religious Life, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ford Foundation, The Salvation Army International Social Justice Commission, The Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations and The Institute for Global Engagement, launched an ongoing seminar on “Religion, Women and Peacebuilding” on Tuesday December 6th 2011.

The seminar is designed to harvest and animate good practices of women of faith in peacebuilding around the world and linked to women of faith peacebuilding efforts on the ground.

In her inaugural remarks, H.E. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, emphasized that women of faith are often best positioned to build peace. Ambassador Johnson Cook said, “Women connect the dots and find common ground in difficult situations. This is the power of women’s centricity. It should be welcomed, supported and protected.”

Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook calls for the acknowledgement, support and protection of the power of women of faith as agents of peace 

H.E. Ambassador Tine Morch Smith of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations emphasized that through religious networks, women can reach people who would otherwise be out of reach or would not listen.

Ms. Lakshmi Puri, the Assistant Secretary General of United Nations Women, said that “religious communities must transcend conflicts between faiths so that they can work together to resolve conflicts.”

Discussions covered the innovative leadership of women of faith at the forefront of peacebuilding, utilizing their positions in communities, networks, influence and practical communication channels. Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, shared an example of the Sierra Leone women of faith who negotiated with rebels to free 50 child hostages. “They did what others could not. They helped stop the war and open the channel of dialogue. Women are essential to building peace,’ Dr. Vendley stressed.

“The ‘invisibility’ of women’s leadership can be overcome through re-educating men as well as empowering women,” said Dr. Lilian Sison, Secretary General of Religions for Peace Philippines. She shared a case of trauma healing and psychosocial support undertaken by the women of faith network in Mindanao related to the conflict that, for decades, has troubled Muslims and Christians there.

Participants discussed how women of faith as agents of peace can engage with other sectors. H.E. Ambassador Tine Morch Smith of the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations shared the partnership with Religions for Peace in the Great Lakes Region where women of faith work alongside men of faith to promote peace. Ms. Puri shared practical illustrations of partnerships between United Nations Women working with women of faith networks across the world to build peace. The Kenyan Ambassador, H.E Josephine Ojiambo stated: “Kenya is committed to dynamic partnerships that engage women of faith and we have working examples that have importance beyond Kenya.” Ambassador Suzan-Johnson Cook stated: “This is the era of partnership, and this means partnership with women of faith.”

This seminar was the first in an open series designed to connect multiple stakeholders with women of faith engaged in concrete projects on the ground. The next seminar will be convened in the Spring of 2012.

Ms. Jackie Ogega, Religions for Peace
New York, USA
Tel: (+1) 212-687-2163

RELIGIONS FOR PEACE—the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition—advances common action among the world’s religious communities for peace. Religions for Peace works to transform violent conflict, advance human development, promote just and harmonious societies, and protect the earth. The global Religions for Peace network comprises a World Council of senior religious leaders from all regions of the world; six regional inter-religious bodies and more than eighty national ones; and the Global Women of Faith Network and Global Interfaith Youth Network.

Source: Religions for Peace

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