Role of Religious Leaders in Achieving Sustainable Development

Dialogue is a great tool that can support fostering a culture of peace in any society; it helps social workers build bridges between people and bring their different points of view closer in one space.

From L to R: Supreme Mufti of Turkmenistan Yalkap Hojagulyev, Dr. Renee Hattar and Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kazakhstan Yuri Novgorodov. Photo credit: Nazarbayev Center for Development of Interfaith and Intercivilization Dialogue.

A holistic approach to interfaith dialogue, as part of a human, creative and peaceful discourse among individuals and groups, has indeed proved its efficiency today by working on all levels and involving all actors on a grass root level, experts’ level and decision makers’ level. Raising awareness about religions is an important aspect of the process.

Dr. Renee Hattar.

Interfaith work is closely related to sustainable development. It is present in an indirect way in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mainly concerning peace, justice, human rights and human security. 

Religious values and doctrines enter everyday life and help introduce a code of conduct in all the aspects proposed by the SDGs. Values such as solidarity, empathy, dignity, and integrity and how to apply them can help in refining relationships among people to achieve reducing poverty and hunger, providing decent work conditions and working with dedication, as well as treating each other with equality while accepting our differences, all of which was recognized by the declaration of the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

Other values such as humbleness, generosity and poverty can help in responsible consumption of energy and water resources and sharing them with others who don’t have resources. Inner peace achieved through spirituality can help people’s well-being and mental health, which can be reflected in their good health. People of faith believe that God created nature and all its resources and, therefore, should be saved and shared; this can be reflected in life below water and on land.

Role of religious leaders

If we explore the role of religious leaders, we can find many examples; among the most recent, also valued by the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, is the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together between the Holy See and Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in resolution A/RES/75/200 of Dec. 21, 2020, which calls for peace, dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual respect among believers for the common good.

In Jordan, many initiatives took place, which paved the way for the mentioned initiatives, starting in 2004, when King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan issued the Amman Message, a declaration that was endorsed by more than 200 Islamic experts from all over the world. 

In 2007, another important initiative followed under the title, A Common Word Between Us and You, based on the two commandments: Love of God and neighbor, inviting Christians to join hands on such a foundation for the cause of God, world peace and harmony.” 

World interfaith harmony week, conceived to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence, was first proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan at the UN in 2010. It was quickly adopted by the UN General Assembly (resolution A/RES/65/5), declaring the first week of February each year as World Interfaith Harmony week, calling on governments, institutions and civil society to observe it with various programs and initiatives that would promote the aim of the week’s objectives.

In conclusion

Seeking common human values, such as love, understanding, fraternity, forgiveness and compassion, between world religions can serve as a basis for a human, cultural and religious dialogue that can eventually lead to peace. 

A collaboration between religion, states and individuals in a society is essential to be able to achieve peace through work that reaches all social spheres so that the different issues of importance can be covered and take charge of the different social and human aspects at stake within a society, to achieve an interreligious and intercultural nonviolent dialogue, as underlined by the declaration of the seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

The author is the Director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies. Established in 1994 in Amman, Jordan, the institute is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides a venue for the interdisciplinary study of intercultural and interreligious issues to defuse tensions and promote peace, regionally and globally.

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