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The Geneva Spiritual Appeal of 1999-October

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An end to religion as a cause of violence:

Buddhist, Christian (Old Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic), Jewish and Muslim religious leaders held a meeting Geneva Switzerland during 1999-OCT. Also present were heads of secular groups: the President of the Red Cross, UN High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees, and the General Director of the World Health Organization

Many conferences have been conducted in the past to discuss how religious groups could ameliorate human suffering, and reduce conflict. However, this was one of the first to dwell on religion as a cause of violence and discrimination. 

On OCT-24, they signed a document "The Geneva Spiritual Appeal." They ask political and religious leaders and organizations to ensure that religious faiths are not used to justify future violence. 

The Appeal followed the 1949 Geneva Conventions by 50 years. It followed by 100 years the 1899-MAY Hague Peace Conference which the leader of the U.S. delegation termed, "the first conference of the entire world ever." 1

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Text of the Appeal:

Because our personal convictions or the religions to which we owe allegiance have common a respect for the integrity of humankind.

Because our personal convictions or the religious to which we owe allegiance have common a rejection of hatred and violence.

Because our personal convictions or the religions to which we owe allegiance have common the hope for a better and more just world.

Representing religious communities and civil society we appeal to the leaders of the world, whatever their field of influence, to strictly adhere to the following three principles:

1) A refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual power to justify violence of any kind,

2) A refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual source to justify discrimination and exclusion;

3) A refusal to exploit or dominate others by means of strength, intellectual capacity or spiritual persuasion, wealth or social status.

Grounded in the Genevan tradition of welcome, refuge and compassion, our appeal is open to all whose convictions are in accordance with these three demands. 2

Two weeks before the signing of the Appeal, a service was held at St. Peter's Cathedral. It commemorated the annual Festival of Geneva. That year, it had the Tibetan people as their special guests. The Dalai Lama was guest preacher. He said that those who waged war in the name of religion had failed to look beyond their religion to other faiths which they opposed. If they did examine other faiths, they would recognize the same desire for transformation as in their own. He said: "It's not enough to belong to a religion. You have to experience it. Spirituality is like a medicine. To heal the illness, it is not sufficient to look at the medicine and talk about it. You have to ingest it." He continued that in spite of their differing methods, the great religions shared a common goal – to make people better. He advised the congregation to follow seriously "your own spiritual path". 3

The Appeal was signed on Sunday, 1999-OCT-24. It coincided with an interfaith religious service that was also held in St. Peter's Cathedral, Geneva on United Nations Day. The service was "organized in close cooperation with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and [was] representatives of the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha'i communities, and other religious congregations present in Geneva." 4

According to Ecumenical News International, delegates claim that 56 current conflicts, civil disturbances, wars, etc have significant religious elements. Protestant theologian William McComish said: "Religion is part of the identity by which one ethnic group sets itself against one another."

One web site allows interested visitors to sign a petition in support of the Geneva Spiritual Appeal. 5 Visitors can also vote for or against the Appeal. Interestingly, as of 2001-JUN-7, 7% were opposed!

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  1. "1899: The first Hague peace conference," at: 
  2. A copy of the text of the Appeal and a list of the participants is online at: 
  3. Edmund Doogue, "Try out your own faith, Dalai Lama tells Geneva congregation," at:  
  4. WCC - Geneva 2000: Kofi Annan will attend service of worship," at:
  5. Ecumenical News International report #ENI-99-0408
  6. Anyone who wishes to indicate their support for the Appeal can sign a petition at:

Copyright 2000 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-APR-24
Latest update: 2001-JUN-6-
Author: B.A. Robinson

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