You Gotta Have Faith at the UN

October 24, 2006

Author: Azza Karam and Matthew Weiner

Source: International Herald Tribune

The United Nations lacks a comprehensive strategy for understanding and engaging religion. While the world's largest multilateral organization is secular and should remain so, it is unrealistic that at a time of global upheaval, religious representatives are not included as a fundamental part of international civil society.

The issue is not whether religion should be important, but rather that because it is, it should be engaged. As long as the United Nations continues to work primarily with secular civil society, multireligious collaboration will remain a largely untapped resource.

The United Nations and its agencies deal with a comprehensive range of issues affecting global communities, including human rights, population, food, agriculture, health, trade and children. For each of these issues, religion often plays a powerful complementary moral, social, economic and political role for disenfranchised communities.

Every religious tradition has leaders and networks providing food distribution, heath care, education and conflict mediation. Religious social service networks, which preceded the UN and governmental entities, reach more people and are more deeply entrenched than any other organization.