Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Study finds: United Nations "too Christian"

(The Guardian) - Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent's department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion. Or it could be that Christians feel compelled by Christ to strive for peace. Also, if there were a Muslim religious leader who also happened to be a head of state, he'd get a seat as well; the Ayatollah Khomeini for example.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance. Christians being the most persecuted religious group in the world, is the answer really to have a more pluralistic makeup of NGOs to help them?

The report also asks for greater understanding of how religions enhance and constrain human rights. It provides evidence that funding limits other religious traditions from establishing NGO work at the UN.

Islam, is represented more significantly through a collective of states (the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation) rather than civil society NGOs, which are dominated by Catholic groups, according to the report.

Asian religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, are under-represented and funding is a major issue in preventing their equal access, it said. Hinduism actually being a conglomeration of religions and not one monolithic religion and Buddhism not being a religion at all ("If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha."), that seems about right.

Carrette said: "It would seem there needs to be more of a 'global goodwill' to make the UN system work for all religions equally, and for religions to follow and share equally UN goals for peace and justice.

"The report highlights that while all religions are represented in some way in the peacemaking system of the UN, there are structural and historical differences that need to be addressed.

"It also shows that religions form an important part of international global politics and that in a global world we need to establish a new pluralistic contract for equal access for all religions to the UN system.

"This must also entail religious groups working towards the ideals of the UN, in terms of human rights, fairness and justice for all men and women." Though, it could be argued, that many of the goals of the UN are in stark opposition to the goals of many of these religions. 

The report questions claims by the Christian right that new age cults run the UN, saying evidence suggests these are greatly misjudged and erroneous.  That you let someone in the door does not mean that you listen to him. 

It also shows the number of inter-faith and new age NGOs is very small, and religious NGOs in total form only 7.29% of the total of consultative status NGOs at the UN.

But despite their small size, some religious NGOs can have a far greater influence, the research suggests. Among the most active religious NGO groups are Catholics, Quakers and the Baha'i faith, which have some of the highest number of meetings with UN diplomats.

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