Religions have an impact on the lives of individuals and societies and reach many people with their message. In the last few years, however, they have frequently been represented as the cause of terror, violence and repression. Yet religions aspire to be peaceable, and there are impressive examples of religiously inspired peacemaking. Many of Germany’s foreign policy objectives are the same as those of faith-based players: building trust, finding compromises, protecting the weak, creating stability and promoting peace. Since autumn 2016, the Federal Foreign Office has therefore stepped up its efforts to make religious communities strategic partners in the work to promote peace.
This initiative is really important because religions are a resource. If you do not capitalise it you are not functioning well as a political and diplomatic entity. So it is an obvious necessity. In addition to that, political and diplomatic authorities can empower religious communities by giving them a greater visibility. So this on both scores is a really blessed initiative.
- Rabbi David Rosen
Conferences in 2017 and 2018
The Task Force on the Responsibility of the Religions for Peace kicked off its public diplomacy with a major conference in May 2017. At the invitation of Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who made the opening speech, 100 religious representatives from 53 countries came together. In addition to these guests, some 400 German participants from churches, religious communities and academia took part in the opening event. Subsequently, religion and the media, peace education, mediation, interfaith councils, as well as religion and politics, were examined in workshops.
You can find speeches and a summary of the conference here.
A follow-up workshop on mediation was held in November enhancing contact with the participants.
Furthermore, a conference was held in December 2017 in cooperation with the United Nations and Religions for Peace looking inter alia at the peace process in Columbia. You can find a brochure with information on this conference here.
From 18 to 20 June, 70 religious representatives from South, South-east and East Asia have been invited by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to exchange views on approaches to the responsibility of the religions for peace and to social equilibrium. The Federal Foreign Office is hosting this conference together with the Finnish Foreign Ministry which plays an exemplary role when it comes to cooperating with religions: Finland has been engaged for some time now in the sphere of religion and foreign policy, has set itself goals similar to Germany’s and has comprehensive contacts with religious representatives worldwide (also through the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers which Finland supports).
At the conference, representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions will examine the issues religion and the media, religion and mediation, religion and peace education as well as women in religious peace processes.
The conference in Berlin in May 2017 marked the start of efforts to develop a global network of religious representatives working for peace in their countries and communities. A second conference is to be held in June 2018. Regional, as well as country and theme-specific formats are to be developed to interconnect and strengthen the peace efforts of local players.
The aim is to discuss the various religions’ potential to foster peace in society and to link this potential more closely with German foreign policy. The idea is to work with different faiths and faith-based organisations with shared interests such as peace and stability as strategic partners in a sustainable network. Endeavours in this field form part of Germany’s cultural relations and education policy.
German foreign policy not only wants to consolidate relations between governments but also to develop ties between societies. Especially in the sphere of cultural relations and education policy, the Federal Foreign Office has many partners and mediators who are forging these contacts at various levels. The mandate of the Task Force on the Responsibility of the Religions for Peace is to intensify cooperation with religious communities around the world.