NEW YORK — Hundreds of demonstrators, in yellow baseball caps and bedecked in ribbons, rallied near the United Nations yesterday in support of what they called “a faith-based approach to world peace.”
Christian, Jewish and Muslim clerics said they wanted to remind diplomats and heads of state that politics alone will not solve the world’s problems. They sang hymns and spirituals in the early autumn sun of a bright October afternoon. The rally was the final stop on a symbolic march that earlier took them to Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
The sponsoring organization, the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace, seeks the creation of a new U.N. body, an interreligious council, to “affirm the highest spiritual and moral principles and seek to apply in the broadest way possible for the sake of peace and the overall well-being of humanity.”
The Philippines has agreed to sponsor a resolution in the General Assembly to create the new U.N. organ. U.N. officials said it would require the consent of the 191-member assembly, and the willingness to pay for it. United Press International quoted one U.N. official as saying that amending the U.N. charter to create the new body would be “near impossible.” He noted that the charter still refers to Russia as “the Soviet Union” and the People’s Republic of China as the “Republic of China,” the official name for the government on Taiwan, as a result of U.N. reluctance to amend its charter.
The rally was convened the day after the U.N. General Assembly “general debate,” an annual event that this year brought 190 world leaders and foreign ministers to the United Nations to talk about the rebuilding of Iraq, the widening gulf between rich and poor, and the spread of AIDS and desperate poverty.
Difficult or not, spokesmen for the demonstrators said, these are exactly the kinds of problems that a faith-based council would be most helpful in addressing.
A three-day conference that ended yesterday, sponsored by the peace federation, drew 13 former heads of state among 300 representatives of 160 nations. The federation, which is affiliated with the Unification Church, reaffirmed its intention to create “peace councils” throughout the world. “The idea of [the councils] is an excellent idea,” Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia and one of the demonstrators, said. “Geopolitical considerations are not enough to base our international politics on.”