Building peace through inter-religious dialogue

Peacebuilding & addressing root-causes

Building peace through inter-religious dialogue

25 July 2023
A group of people posing for the camera

Working inter-religiously makes peace seem possible - inter-religious dialogue contributes to mutual understanding and trust between faith communities, local communities, and nations. Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, and temples share a common principle of faith-based action building sustainable societies and working together for justice and peace.

This July, as a guest of UNHCR's valued partners World Council of Churches, Muslim Council of Elders and Rose Castle Foundation, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, addressed the young leaders of Emerging Peacemakers Forum (EPF) with a keynote during their graduation ceremony in Geneva, encouraging them to ‘’challenge biases and discrimination within their communities, among their friends and families and to embrace and protect those in need of help”.

Initiated by His Eminence Prof. Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the Forum aims to build bridges and cooperation between the East and the West through young generations. The first Forum was held in Cambridge in 2018 and brought Christian, Jewish, and Muslim youth together in inter-religious dialogue.

Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Elders, the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF), and an esteemed member of RfP-UNHCR’s Multi-Religious Council of Leaders, expressed how important it is to the Muslim Council of Elders to establish a genuine partnership with the graduates to promote peace worldwide.

The HCHF was established as a tripartite agreement between His Holiness Pope Francis, the Pope of the Catholic Church, His Eminence Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and His Highness Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi following the Global Conference of Human Fraternity in February 2019. It is an “inter-religious dialogue platform” for faith-based advocacy and religious diplomacy. The EPF brings young leaders into this -important and needed inter-faith dialogue. In 2021, UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HCHF outlining key areas of collective work in faith-based philanthropy during humanitarian emergencies.



This inter-faith dialogue effort is important because of the critical role that young people play in upholding human rights and respecting others. Filippo Grandi encouraged them to see the world for how it is being clinical and not to become cynical.  He said: "Create opportunities for change and fight for them."

Speaking about the importance of inter-religious dialogue, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay said, "When we are thrown into a wider spectrum of things, our knowledge suddenly increases," he said, "You have crossed boundaries of language, of culture, of religious and social norms".

He concluded by reminding the graduates that "Peace is possible". Spokesperson for Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Rev. Dr Richard Sudworth, secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs urged the peacemakers to be curious: "How we are attentive to the complexities of lived faith today demands that we be curious".

UNHCR’s support for the EPF is part of broader efforts to foster collaboration with religious leaders across regions and faiths towards addressing root causes through joint advocacy, conflict prevention, reconciliation, peacebuilding, and social cohesion.

UNHCR’s engagement with the Multi-Religious Council of Leaders formed with Religions for Peace in 2020, along with strategic partnerships on inter-faith work with the Muslim Council of Elders and the World Council of Churches aims to galvanize the support of religious leaders in achieving the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees both in the build-up to and beyond the Global Refugee Forum on December 13-15, 2023.