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Religious leaders join UN in praying for peace – ‘our most precious goal’

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UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe Secretary-General António Guterres addresses attendees to the Interfaith Moment of Prayer for Peace at UN Headquarters.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that the gathering was taking place at a unique moment:  on the last Friday of Ramadan, as Christians celebrate Easter, Jews mark the end of Passover, and Sikhs enjoy the festival of Vaisakhi.   

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“Even the calendar is sending a message of unity,” he remarked.  

“Today, at this blessed moment of renewal across faiths, let us lift our hearts and voices for peace – our guiding star and our most precious goal.”  

Now more than ever 

Mr. Guterres said peace is needed today more than ever before, as war and conflict unleash devastating poverty and hunger, forcing tens of millions from their homes. 

The entire planet is battling climate chaos, and even peaceful countries are facing “gaping inequalities and political polarization”, he added.    

“Let us hold firm to the common faith that unites the human family,” he said. “Let us come together as communities and countries. Let us pray for peace.” 

Incorporating many faiths 

The ceremony was held on the Visitors’ Plaza at the UN Secretariat in front of the iconic Knotted Gun sculpture, which has become a symbol of the Organization’s commitment to global peace.  

UN staff, members of the diplomatic community, and visitors at the UN were among those in attendance. 

Representatives from major religions led prayers, and a moment of silence was observed to include those from secular backgrounds and to remember vulnerable people worldwide affected by conflict. 

Drawing on tradition 

UN News spoke to Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer, an Episcopal Priest in New York City, who represented Christianity. She was honoured to be praying for peace alongside counterparts from different faiths. 

“It is an opportunity to express the long-time resources for peace that world religious traditions have to offer and in so doing, very much are in keeping with the goals of the United Nations,” she said. 

Women, peace, and security 

Rev. Dr. Breyer and Rev. Doyeon Park, a Won Buddhist, were the only women religious leaders participating in the ceremony, which prompted her to reflect on their role in peace globally. 

“When I think of the United Nations and women faith leaders, I think of [Security Council] resolution 1325 and the need for women around – and more women around – the peace tables, be they religious women or not,” she said.  

“It’s certainly something that our world needs right now. And you think of Afghanistan, Iran, and changes that are happening in our own country, and how critical it is to have women’s voices of faith, and no faith, at the table.” 

Celebrate what unites us 

The fact that people from different religious traditions united for peace provides a powerful lesson for humanity, said Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, the Sikh representative and Executive Director of the Religion and Society Program at the Aspen Institute, an international non-profit organization. 

“Often in our society, we use religion to divide one another across individual lines and community lines, and we see the pain of that all over the world,” he said.  

“What I love about this idea of coming together across holidays is that so many different communities are celebrating; they are reflecting with so much in common and so much that unites us.” 

Living in harmony

Delivering the closing remarks, the High Representative of the UN Alliance for Civilizations (UNAOC), Miguel Ángel Moratinos, described the ceremony as a beautiful moment of harmony, “especially during these difficult times that are challenging all of humanity.”

He said it demonstrated how to mobilize action and act in solidarity, and how to show compassion and mutual respect.

The UNAOC promotes cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, and Mr. Moratinos underlined continued support for efforts that aim to “build bridges of understanding, not walls of hate and division.”
 

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