High-Profile Interfaith Panel Tackles Peace Hurdles

Some of the world's top religious, political and intellectual leaders from five continents gathered to discuss how to actualize world peace on Tuesday.

The event, "For a World Without Violence," was organized by the Catholic community of Sant'Egidio and opened in Naples, Italy, with a Eucharistic celebration conducted by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday.

On Tuesday, attendees participated in a morning panel discussion addressing the issues of faiths, war and peace.

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, said there are three major threats to world peace today: nuclear proliferation in combination with competition for resources and less global accountability; increase impact of climate change; and greater injustices at all levels.

Yet the man representing some 590 million Christians also emphasized the positive role religion can play in such a situation

"Faith communities are not defined along racial or ethnic lines, or by national borders, but cut across these divides," Kobia said.

"We can therefore help to find new ways to express our faith, to be able to talk to our neighbors of other faiths, and to forge common visions and goals for the sake of life," he added.

As a sign of goodwill, a relic of Saint Andrew was presented to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the meeting. It is believed that the larger part of St. Andrew's remains were taken from Constantinople in the early 13th century and brought to Amalfi in southern Italy.

Among the religious leaders at the event were the chief rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger; the founder of the University of the United Arab Emirates, Ezzeddin Ibrahim; and U. Uttara, a Buddhist monk from Burma. Also present were the Italian premier, Romano Prodi; and the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete; and the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado.

The interfaith event held Oct. 21-23 echoed a decade-long peace initiative by the WCC called the Decade to Overcome Violence. The initiative seeks to focus churches on the issue of violence and peacemaking and is set to end in 2011 with an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation.