Issue 48, December 2006
The Kyoto declaration on confronting violence and advancing shared security
The first Religions for Peace World Assembly that convened in Kyoto in 1970, and every Assembly since, affirmed deeply held and widely shared religious principles that still inspire our search for peace with justice today. We share a conviction of the fundamental unity of the human family, and the equality and dignity of all human beings. We affirm the sacredness of the individual person and the importance of his or her freedom of conscience. We are committed to the ethical values and attitudes commonly shared by our religious traditions. We uphold the value of life manifest in human community and in all creation. We acknowledge the importance of the environment to sustain life for the human family. We realize that human power is neither self-sufficient nor absolute, and that the spirit of love, compassion, selflessness, and the force of inner truthfulness ultimately have greater power than prejudice, hate, enmity or violence. Meeting in Japan, the nation that experienced the horrors of nuclear attacks, we commit ourselves to continue to struggle toward comprehensive nuclear disarmament and against the proliferation of arms.
The first Assembly of Religions for Peace declared: “As men and women of religions, we confess in humility and penitence that we have very often betrayed our religious ideals and our commitment to peace. It is not religion that has failed the cause of peace, but religious people. This betrayal of religion can and must be corrected.” It is crucial now to engrave the reflection of our respected predecessors deeply in our hearts.
Today, we live in a world in the grip of many forms of violence, both direct and structural. Violent conflicts ÿ within states and across borders, carried out by both state and non-state actors ÿ take lives and destroy communities. They cause more civilian than military casualties and their disproportionate impact is on vulnerable populations.
Religious communities in particular must play a central role identifying and confronting violence in all its forms and manifestations. The world’s religions have experienced abuse by those who seek to misuse religion for their own purposes. In ongoing violent conflicts around the world, religion is being used as a justification or excuse for violence. We must regretfully accept that some groups within our religious communities have indeed sought to employ violence. We must reject this and recommit religions to the way of peace. Religious communities and leaders must stand up, speak out, and take action against the misuse of religion.
The diverse and interconnected threats currently experienced by innumerable members of the human family call for a much broader understanding of violence in the world. The world’s religious communities must play a central role partnering with one another and all sectors of society, to prevent and stop war, expose injustice, combat poverty, and protect the earth.
The time to do this is now; and our key to confronting violence is cooperation based on mutual respect and acceptance.
Direct physical threats are the most commonly offered definition of violence, but the reality of the diverse and interconnected chronic threats to human survival experienced by millions calls for a much broader understanding of violence in the world. Economic injustices leading to extreme poverty and hunger kill 50,000 people each day. Preventable and treatable diseases kill millions. Twenty-five million people have already died from AIDS, while approximately forty million more are living with HIV and AIDS, and the impact on our communities is devastating. Many corporations, especially at the multinational level, set their business interests without concern for values that foster sustainable development. Environmental degradation and dwindling resources threaten our planet’s ability to sustain life.
The poor, the powerless, and the most vulnerable populations disproportionately suffer the consequences of violence in all its forms, ranging from armed conflict to extreme poverty to environmental degradation.
Unfortunately, religion plays a significant role in some of the most intractable and violent conflicts around the world. Religion is being hijacked by extremists, and too often by politicians, and by the media. Extremists use religion to incite violence and hatred and foster sectarian conflict, contrary to our most deeply held beliefs. Religious people need to recognize the reasons why religions are being hijacked, such as through manipulation and misuse of their central principles. Politicians often exploit and manipulate sectarian differences to serve their own ends, frequently dragging religion into social, economic and political disputes. The media also contribute to the scapegoating of religions in conflict situations through disrespectful representations. They also too easily identify parties to a conflict by religious labels and present religion as a source of conflict without reporting the diversity within religious traditions and the many ways that religious communities are confronting violence and working for peace.
A multi-religious response
There are religious and ethical imperatives for multi-religious cooperation to resist and reject violence, prevent it when possible, as well as promote reconciliation and healing. Our religious traditions call us to care for one another and to treat the problems faced by others as our own. Violence against any individual is an attack against all and should prompt our concern. Religious communities know that they are especially called to stand on the side of the most vulnerable, including the poor, the marginalized, and the defenseless. Our religious traditions acknowledge the fundamental vulnerability of human life. The vulnerability of each person should make us recognize the need to respond to the vulnerability of all persons.
There are also practical grounds for cooperation. No group is immune to violence or its consequences. War, poverty, disease, and the destruction of the environment have direct or indirect impacts on all of us. Individuals and communities deceive themselves if they believe they are secure while others are suffering. Walls can never be high enough to insulate us from the impacts of the genuine needs and vulnerabilities of others. No nation can be secure while other nations are threatened. We are no safer than the most vulnerable among us.
The efforts of individual religious communities are made vastly more effective through multi-religious cooperation. Religious communities working together can be powerful actors to prevent violence before it erupts, diffuse conflict, mediate among armed groups in the midst of conflict, and lead their communities to rebuild war-torn societies.
Religious communities are called not only to reject war and foreign occupation, sectarian violence, weapons proliferation, and human rights abuse, but also to identify and confront the root causes of injustice, economic inequalities, governance failures, development obstacles, social exclusions, and environmental abuses.
Existing notions of security inadequately address violence in its many forms. National security does not necessarily ensure peace; in fact, it often promotes violence and foments insecurity. Armed conflict takes place between states, and increasingly within states and among non-state actors. Human security acknowledges the solidarity of the human family by approaching security from the perspective of human rights and needs. But defining human security in these terms fails to address adequately how these needs are to be met and who is responsible for ensuring them.
A well-developed concept of shared security articulates security needs, how they are to be met, and the necessary agents, instruments, and relationships to achieve it. Importantly, shared security would highlight the collective responsibility of all people to meet our common need for security.
Shared security requires all sectors of society to acknowledge our common vulnerabilities and our shared responsibility to address them. It is undertaken collectively by multiple stakeholders acknowledging that every sector of society must confront violence if we hope to do so effectively. It supports participatory and democratic forms of governance. Governments, international organizations, civil society, and religious communities themselves must all advance shared security. Effective shared security spans boundaries of geography, nationality, ethnicity, and religion. It marshals human responsibility, accountability and capacity wherever it exists.
Effective shared security, at all levels of community, meets national security needs; acknowledges and addresses both direct and chronic threats to individual physical security; and protects the poor, the powerless and the most vulnerable. It strengthens governance efforts and addresses the disparities and inequities of globalization. Shared security supports religious communities and religious leaders in their efforts to oppose the abuse of religion for violent ends and to build institutions for collaboration among governments, all elements of civil society and religious communities. A commitment to shared security enables multi-religious networks, such as the global Religions for Peace network, in their efforts to transform conflict, build peace, struggle for justice, and advance sustainable development.
Religions for Peace
A multi-religious call to action
We call on all sectors of society – public and private, religious and secular – to work together to achieve shared security for the human family.
Specifically, the Religions for Peace World Assembly calls on:
1) Religious communities to:
2) The global network of Religions for Peace to:
3) Governments, International Organizations, and the Business Sector to:
We ask all people of goodwill to support and collaborate with religious communities as we work toward shared security for all. These commitments and the calls to action that arise from them express our most deeply held and widely shared religious beliefs.