Christians/Muslims Feel Marginalized at Conclusion of World Peace Summit

By Austin Ruse | September 1, 2000

     (NEW YORK – C-FAM)  What seemed to begin on Monday as a pell-mell sprint for world peace and understanding ended this afternoon in bruised feelings and charges of favoritism. The World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders failed in its mission to establish a permanent UN religious advisory council. Part of the problem was what some see as a lack of representation from the world's two largest religions.

     "This Summit was a Hindu-Jain show," said a Catholic priest familiar with the UN. [Hinduism and Jainism are both far-eastern faiths that believe in karma and reincarnation.] From the great number of orange-robed holy men wandering all over the swank Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan, it appeared the eastern faiths were very well represented at the three-day Summit. "I wonder if this was really India's attempt at getting a permanent slot on the Security Council," said one skeptical Summit delegate. The seeming over-representation of the eastern faiths could have come from the natural inclination Summit chief Bawa Jain, a member of the Jain sect.

     A well-connected Muslim delegate also complained of what he felt was only a token presence of both Christians and Muslims. He explained that an overwhelming number of countries are under administrative control of either Christians or Muslims, yet he felt both religions were under-represented. "If this body is to have any credibility at all it must address the concerns of both Christians and Muslims," he said. He also complained that both faiths have come under attack during the week. American media mogul Ted Turner attacked his boyhood Christian faith, and Hindus delegates criticized the conversion policies of Christianity and Islam.

     What was especially disappointing about the Summit to some was the lack of any concrete programs or direction. Many delegates hoped for a set of practical proposals and plans of action. "Most of these speeches have been about 'looking inside yourself.' All of our faiths ask us to do that to varying degrees. We don't need this meeting for that kind of sentiment. What we needed here was a program to advance the cause of faith at the UN, and we didn't get it. I hate to say it but this meeting was almost a complete waste of time," said the Muslim observer.

     Conference achievements do seem slim. Only one document was produced and it was written well in advance of the meeting. Summit participants were asked to sign the "Commitment to Global Peace" that calls for, among other things, regional and global "pursuit of peace," "a world free of violence," and reversing the "gap between rich and poor.

     As for the proposed UN religious advisory panel, Summit spokesman Anne Glauber said organizers might appoint a steering committee that may eventually set up some kind of advisory council. But she said the steering committee had not yet been appointed and she did not know when it would. She said the Summit was still successful, however, because "it got everybody together." However, not everyone seems to be walking away happy.