Building New Inter-Religious Councils

Religions for Peace welcomes the great growth in recent years of structures to facilitate inter-religious dialogue at national and regional level in Europe. In some of these processes Religions for Peace was invited to contribute actively.

Timeline, establishment of Interreligious Councils:

The most recent national inter-religious councils, those of Belgium and Albania are linked to our European network from the start. The Norwegian national council is independent from RfP Europe (as it also includes secular Humanists)

Inter-religious councils may take many different forms. Common to them all is that they make up an organisational structure where leaders of many faiths meet. An inter-religious council should normally consist of the senior religious leaders of all significant faith communities in a given country.

Inter-religious councils establish their own agenda and may discuss issues of common concerns for all religions as well as issues that are a cause for tension between religions. Sometimes inter-religious councils may decide to start common projects to support for example disadvantaged groups.

Several inter-religious councils have repeatedly proved their raison d’être by contributing to:

  • strengthening network among religious organisations
  • creating personal ties / friendship
  • increasing trust between communities
  • increasing the general knowledge of different religious traditions
  • calming down the situation in times of religious or communal tension

Religions for Peace- Europe is prepared to support new initiatives to establish independent and self-sustained inter-religious councils. If you are in position to facilitate the establishment of an IRC in your country, we request you to contact The European Council of Religuos Leaders Secretariat.

Resouces:

Important considerations / excerpts from the Manual for establishing Interreligious Councils

Principles of an Inter-religious Council: Two principles guide the structure and operation of an inter-religious council affiliated with Religions for Peace

Representativity:

The principle of representativity recognizes that a person, or group of persons, can represent, informally or formally, concerns of a larger community. Religions for Peace is committed to assisting entire religious communities to cooperate with one another for the common good. Access to the spiritual, moral and social assets of religious communities relevant to the common good must be made “through” the religious communities and their own structures and institutions.5 Thus the principle of representativity entails engaging the enormous range of already-existing religious structures in multi-religious cooperation. For Religions for Peace, the religious communities and their structures are the “primary actors” in multi-religious cooperation.

Religions for Peace believes that the principle of representativity needs to be interpreted at every level of religious community and applied to groups typically excluded from “official” positions in religious leadership. Consonant with this understanding, Religions for Peace has taken affirmative action to ensure that representatives of religious women and youth groups are among Religions for Peace leadership. Nevertheless, significant additional steps need to be taken in this regard. See Section F

Subsidiarity: The principle of subsidiarity is designed to ensure that appropriate leadership occurs on every level of IRCs and that all levels are organically linked to one another. The Religions for Peace Standing Rules make clear that local leadership applies at the level of sub national units, national leadership at the national level, regional leadership at a regional level and world leadership at the international level. The principle of subsidiarity also clarifies reciprocity among all levels. No level can disregard the principles that guide the entire organization, but each restricted level is included in and is part of all broader levels of organization.

This principle allows for inclusive representative participation regarding situations that affect the whole organization, but also ensures that local actors remain the agents of their own affairs regarding local issues.

The principles of representativity and subsidiarity are complementary and are necessarily understood together. They encourage the development of structures and program responsibilities that are mutually supportive and respectful of the different capacities for action at each level of the organization.

Gender Mainstreaming
Women have been and continue to be important actors, participants, and decision-makers in religious communities. Moreover, there are many issues on which religious women have been able to develop particular skills and a distinguished record of leadership, such as caring for their communities’ health, education, welfare, morality, and the reconciliation of differences.

Gender mainstreaming within an IRC refers to the process of including women’s perspectives and their actual presence at all organizational levels and in all aspects of an organization’s work. Women should be involved, and their perspectives solicited, with regard to each project and/or program activity that the IRC and/or chapter undertake. (..)
Religions for Peace seeks to fully integrate women of faith into the governance structures and operations of inter-religious bodies at the national, regional and international levels, thus providing women a place at the table for inter-religious leadership and dialogue to express concerns and offer valuable perspectives and resources.

Timeline

Bulgaria – in process
Ireland – in process
Albania – 2008
Belgium – 2007
Wales – 2004
Kosovo – 13-Apr-2000
Russia January 1999
Norway – 1996 Scotland – 1999
United Kingdom – 1987