Religions together for humanitarian action
(Vatican Radio) Experts, academics and religious leaders will gather in Geneva at the United Nations Headquarters on May 27 for a day-long debate.
Entitled “Religions Together for Humanitarian Action” the Symposium organized by the Sovereign Order of Malta has been conceived within the framework of its participation in the World Humanitarian summit next year in Istanbul.
During the Symposium policy-makers, religious leaders and academics aim to tackle sensitive issues related to the 2016 summit, which is an initiative of UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon.
As the Order of Malta’s Gran Chancellor, Baron Albrecht von Boeselager explains to Vatican Radio, these issues include the contribution of faith-based organizations in war theatres and the role of religions in promoting reconciliation.
Listen to the interview:
Baron von Boeslager says the idea of holding the Symposium arose following discussions regarding what could be the contribution of the Sovereign Order of Malta to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
He explains that the Summit will focus mainly on four different themes, the fourth being “Serving the needs of people in conflict” and he says that the Order he belongs to is deeply committed to providing humanitarian aid in armed conflict, so this is the theme they have decided to concentrate on.
He says it is also an occasion to “elaborate what the special vocation and possibilities of religious-based organizations is, or could be, to help during armed conflicts” he says.
During the Geneva Symposium von Boeslager says participants will also start a discussion with representatives of other religions to find out what could be a common proposal to the World Humanitarian Summit.
He says that recent and ongoing conflicts show that civilians continue to pay the highest price and those human rights are increasingly ignored.
“To start with one figure: until the First World War, 90% of all victims were soldiers and 10% were civilians, and now it is exactly the other way around” he says.
He points out that not only are 90% of the victims civilians today, but they are mostly women, children and elderly people.
“So the situation for the civilian population in areas of armed conflict has dramatically worsened” he says.
Von Boeslager calls for action as world conventions that were drawn up after the 2 world wars conflicts to protect human rights in conflict situations are increasingly ignored.
He comments on how the values of religion, which are key for reconciliation and peace, are too often manipulated for pursuit of power and profit through violence.