Towards an Interreligious Council in the UN

UPF-Austria: Vienna, August 30, 2003


Vienna (Austria) - Against the background of growing regional conflict zones and the worldwide threat of terrorist activities, the “Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace” (IIFWP) calls for political and religious figures to come together to work for common solutions for the world’s most urgent problems. The central request is the suggestion to establish an interreligious council of representatives from the world’s religions, to work together with the political bodies of the United Nations.


The IIFWP, which was founded in 1998 by Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon is a world wide active public organization, which is dedicated to “Peace Building through education programs, workshops, conferences and publications.” It is currently holding conferences in virtually all UN member nations to inform about the concern for such an interreligious council. For Austria the conference was held in Vienna.



150 people met at the Holiday Inn Vienna South, to discuss the topic “The World in an Upheaval – New Ways towards Lasting Peace”. Among them were ambassadors and other professionals from the diplomatic field,  religious representatives and responsible people of all fields of society. The message of the international President of IIFWP Dr. Chung Hwan Kwak read by Mr. Zöhrer, the president of the Austrian Family Federation for World Peace, addressed the foundation for a peaceful world order: “At the center … of our vision for leadership quality and government responsibility is the cognition that humankind lives in a cosmos created by God and that God created this world and each and every one of us according to certain principles. Only when we have a correct relationship to God and humankind reflects the harmony and goodness in God, can true peace be realized.”


The conference offered a mixture of spiritual reflection, academic lectures and a cultural program. Representatives of Hinduism, the Catholic Church, Buddhism, the Armenian Apostolic Church and Islam opened the meeting with prayers and texts from their religious traditions. An empty chair represented all the religions which could not be included in this ceremony.



The Ambassador of Indonesia to Austria H.E. Samodra Sriwidjaja made a short statement to the conference saying: “Let us stop blaming religion as the root of the problem and instead look for innovative approach to eradicate poverty, to combat injustice and to remove marginalization in the world society”.


The theologian and family expert, Dr. Dietrich Seidel addressed the topic ”The Central Role of the Family in Human Development”. He described the development of the ability to love within the family. This consists of a child’s love towards the parents, the love of brothers and sisters, the love of husband and wife and the parental love. A world of peaceful nations consists of nations with peaceful families . The present divorce culture, having its roots in secular individualism, needs to be transformed into a marriage culture that affirms the new individualism of living for the sake of others.



In the morning the choir of the Family Federation sang “Let there be peace on earth” already introducing the theme of the conference. In the afternoon the Upper Austrian Wind Quintet opened the session with three pieces of music. Their contribution was so well received, that they were only released from the stage after promising to return at a later time point.


The General Practitioner, Dr. Maria Riehl from the Women’s Federation for World Peace spoke about the role of women in the peace process. She described very vividly her personal experiences as a mother and a doctor. She has had to listen to other people internally and externally provide room, and provide assistance very much in a serving manner. She particularly mentioned the project “Bridge of Peace”, which was started by the Women’s Federation and which has the goal to reconcile women from nations and folks groups which were enemies.


The religious scientist and journalist, Dr. Heinz Gstrein dealt with the aspect: “ United Religions? Tolerance enough is too little against Globalization of Fanaticism. He looked at current currents of interreligious dialogue and described contradictory tendencies. On the one hand there was the open dialogue on the basis of reciprocal respect. On the other hand there was the tendency to ostracize and be religiously narrow-minded. He warned against being satisfied  with the thoughts of tolerance alone, or to seek the goal of merely co-existence of religions. Referring to the spiritual legacy of the oriental Jewish mystique the Kabala, he postulated the sentence: “It would be more correct to say, that each faith possesses a piece of the total divine truth and that when these pieces are correctly put together, … a harmonious whole, a peaceful unity is created.”


The President of the Austrian Branch of the IIFWP, Peter Haider, called upon all the participants to sign a common resolution supporting the establishment of an interreligious council in the UN. The background for the resolution is the intention of the Philippine Delegation to introduce such a resolution at the 58th General Assembly of the United Nations in September.