On behalf of the Universal Peace Federation, we are pleased to announce a special consultation on the current crisis in Syria. We are already painfully aware of the magnitude of the current crisis, the loss of life, the displacement of persons, and the horrors of war. We all fear the potential for this crisis to escalate even further into a wider conflict, involving other countries in the region, as well as major power like Russia, the European Union and the USA.

This special consultation will bring together approximately 20 religious leaders, academics and Middle East experts to reflect on “The Prospects for Dialogue and Reconciliation in Syria: The Role of Religion in International Relations.”  

There is growing, yet still inadequate awareness of the important role which religions could and should play in international relations. Some of the obstacles are related to outdated attitudes toward religion on the part of the mainstream community of international relations experts, and some of the obstacles are related to religion’s own inadequacies and unfortunate practices. These obstacles can be overcome, and religion can be a significant and constructive player in global affairs. The consultation will provide an opportunity for us to consider the way in which religious believers of diverse faiths and ethnic or national backgrounds can come together in a spirit of harmony and cooperation to speak with one voice of the need for dialogue, cooperation, and peace.

Throughout the history of UPF’s Middle East Peace Initiative, we have consistently encouraged interfaith dialogue and cooperation. In addition, UPF has for thirteen years been advocating for the United Nations to build within its system an interfaith council of spiritual elders. We admire and are encouraged by initiatives taken up by Pope Francis, by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, by H.E. Nasser Al Nassir of the UN’s Dialogue Among Civilizations, and many others who affirm the need for interfaith, intercultural and inter-civilizational dialogue and cooperation.

With this in mind, the consultation provides a golden opportunity for us to come together as an international and interreligious group of leaders from various sectors, to listen and learn, to share and reflect on how we can serve as relevant, contribution stakeholders in the search for a solution to the crisis in Syria.