Building World Peace: The Role of Religion and Human Rights

Romeo Dallaire’s speech – pt1
Romeo Dallaire’s speech – pt2
Romeo Dallaire’s speech – pt3
Conference Resolution - French
Conference Resolution - English
Conference Report - English
Conference Report - French

“Every child is born with the right to peace. The birth of a child is a cry for peace.”
- James Loney

From October 20 to 22, 2006, over 350 delegates gathered at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to grapple with the problem of violence in the name of religion and to suggest steps for building world peace. Organized by the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, the conference featured 35 speakers from around the world. Concurrently, a group of 300 junior and senior high school students gathered for a one-day youth event exploring the same themes.

The speakers and delegates were a group of seemingly disconnected individuals. They were citizens of diverse cultures. They were adherents of varied religious and spiritual traditions. They were from all stations and walks of life. At this critical juncture of human history, when differences threaten not simply to divide but actually to destroy all life on earth, this disparate group found a common ground: a commitment to peace.

Peace, of course, is not easily achieved. Peace takes time, commitment, sacrifice, compromise, vision and selflessness. Peace requires individuals, governments, corporations and religions to humbly and wholeheartedly embrace a new worldview – one in which differences are celebrated, all life is held sacred, human rights are universally upheld, violence is eliminated, the earth is protected, and the needs of the whole usurp the wants of the individual. But, as former Iraq hostage James Loney so passionately proclaimed in his keynote address on the opening night of the conference, “Peace is the most important achievement we can strive for.”

Despite many challenges, the diverse group gathered in Edmonton made remarkable achievements. Not surprisingly, consensus was not always achieved. Nonetheless, the conference was overwhelmingly productive. In explicitly addressing the challenges articulated by the conference co-chairs, Senators Douglas Roche and Claudette Tardif, to “heal a suffering humanity” and to “negate fear of the other,” all of those assembled were able to identify myriad problems, to pose strong recommendations through which individuals, religious traditions, multifaith collectives and society as a whole can work towards building world peace and to inspire future generations to make a commitment to peace.

Senator Roche concluded the conference by reiterating that religious leaders everywhere must speak out on behalf of human rights and to build the conditions for peace through an alliance of civilizations. The conclusions, including this statement, can be found in the Final Report, Building World Peace: Now We Must Change (or Maintenant il faut changer).

A parallel youth conference, Building World Peace (Some Assembly Required), was also hosted for 300 students.  Following the event, a teaching resource was developed for Grade 10 Social Studies that examines the challenges to peace and the rights, responsibilities and roles youth play as engaged citizens.  The resource also includes a DVD of Senator Dallaire’s presentation to the larger conference.