The Council for a Parliament of the World’s
The world is in agony. The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the depth of this pain may be made clear. Peace eludes us. The planet is being destroyed. Neighbors live in fear. Women and men are estranged from each other. Children die!
This is abhorrent!
We condemn the abuses of Earth’s ecosystems.
We condemn the poverty that stifles life’s potential; the hunger that weakens the human body; the economic disparities that threaten so many families with ruin.
We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence.
In particular we condemn aggression and hatred in the name of religion.
But this agony need not be.
It need not be because the basis for an ethic already exists. This ethic offers the possibility of a better individual and global order, and leads individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos.
We are women and men who have embraced the precepts and practices of the world’s religions:
We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic.
We affirm that this truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action.
We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions. There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order.
We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water, and soil.
We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences.
We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance. We must be able to forgive, learning from the past but never allowing ourselves to be enslaved by memories of hate. Opening our hearts to one another, we must sink our narrow differences for the cause of the world community, practicing a culture of solidarity and relatedness.
We consider humankind our family. We must strive to be kind and generous. We must not live for ourselves alone, but should also serve others, never forgetting the children, the aged, the poor, the suffering, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely. No person should ever be considered or treated as a second-class citizen, or be exploited in any way whatsoever. There should be equal partnership between men and women. We must not commit any kind of sexual immorality. We must put behind us all forms of domination or abuse.
We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences.
We must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being. We must speak and act truthfully and with compassion, dealing fairly with all, and avoiding prejudice and hatred. We must not steal. We must move beyond the dominance of greed for power, prestige, money, and consumption to make a just and peaceful world.
Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. We pledge to increase our awareness by disciplining our minds, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking. Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore, we commit ourselves to this global ethic, to understanding one another, and to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life.
We invite all people, whether religious or not, to do the same.
THE PRINCIPLES OF A GLOBAL
Our world is experiencing a fundamental crisis: a crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics. The lack of a grand vision, the tangle of unresolved problems, political paralysis, mediocre political leadership with little insight or foresight, and in general too little sense for the commonweal are seen everywhere: too many old answers to new challenges.
Hundreds of millions of human beings on our planet increasingly suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, and the destruction of their families. Hope for a lasting peace among nations slips away from us. There are tensions between the sexes and generations. Children die, kill, and are killed. More and more countries are shaken by corruption in politics and business. It is increasingly difficult to live together peacefully in our cities because of social, racial, and ethnic conflicts, the abuse of drugs, organized crime, and even anarchy. Even neighbors often live in fear of one another. Our planet continues to be ruthlessly plundered. A collapse of the ecosystem threatens us.
Time and again we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate, and xenophobia—even inspire and legitimize violent and bloody conflicts. Religion often is misused for purely power-political goals, including war. We are filled with disgust.
We condemn these blights and declare that they need not be. An ethic already exists within the religious teachings of the world which can counter the global distress. Of course this ethic provides no direct solution for all the immense problems of the world, but it does supply the moral foundation for a better individual and global order: a vision which can lead women and men away from despair, and society away from chaos.
We are persons who have committed ourselves to the precepts and practices of the world’s religions. We confirm that there is already a consensus among the religions which can be the basis for a global ethic—a minimal “fundamental consensus” concerning binding “values,” irrevocable “standards,” and fundamental “moral attitudes.”
I. No new global order
without a new global ethic!
We women and men of various religions and regions of Earth therefore address all people, religious and non-religious. We wish to express the following convictions which we hold in common:
After two world wars and the end of the cold war, the collapse of fascism and nazism, the shaking to the foundations of communism and colonialism, humanity has entered a new phase of its history. Today we possess sufficient economic, cultural, and spiritual resources to introduce a better global order. But old and new ethnic, national, social, economic, and religious tensions threaten the peaceful building of a better world. We have experienced greater technological progress than ever before, yet we see that worldwide poverty, hunger, death of children, unemployment, misery, and the destruction of nature have not diminished but rather have increased. Many peoples are threatened with economic ruin, social disarray, political marginalization, ecological catastrophe, and national collapse.
In such a dramatic global situation humanity needs a vision of peoples living peacefully together, of ethnic and ethical groupings and of religions sharing responsibility for the care of Earth. A vision rests on hopes, goals, ideals, standards. But all over the world these have slipped from our hands. Yet we are convinced that, despite their frequent abuses and failures, it is the communities of faith who bear a responsibility to demonstrate that such hopes, ideals, and standards can be guarded, grounded, and lived. This is especially true in the modern state.
Guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion are necessary but they do not substitute for binding values, convictions, and norms which are valid for all humans, regardless of their social origin, sex, skin color, language, or religion.
We are convinced of the fundamental unity of the human family on Earth. We recall the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. What it formally proclaimed on the level of rights we wish to confirm and deepen here from the perspective of an ethic: the full realization of the intrinsic dignity of the human person, the inalienable freedom and equality in principle of all humans, and the necessary solidarity and interdependence of all humans with each other.
On the basis of personal experiences and the burdensome history of our planet we have learned
By a global ethic we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the domination of one religion over all others. By a global ethic we mean a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable standards, and personal attitudes. Without such a fundamental consensus on an ethic, sooner or later every community will be threatened by chaos or dictatorship, and individuals will despair.
II. A fundamental demand: every human being must be treated humanely.
We all are fallible, imperfect men and women with limitations and defects. We know the reality of evil. Precisely because of this, we feel compelled for the sake of global welfare to express what the fundamental elements of a global ethic should be—for individuals as well as for communities and organizations, for states as well as for the religions themselves. We trust that our often millennia-old religious and ethical traditions provide an ethic which is convincing and practicable for all women and men of good will, religious and non-religious.
At the same time, we know that our various religious and ethical traditions often offer very different bases for what is helpful and what is unhelpful for men and women, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. We do not wish to gloss over or ignore the serious differences among the individual religions. However, they should not hinder us from proclaiming publicly those things which we already hold in common and which we jointly affirm, each on the basis of our own religious or ethical grounds.
We know that religions cannot solve the environmental, economic, political, and social problems of Earth. However, they can provide what obviously cannot be attained by economic plans, political programs, or legal regulations alone: a change in the inner orientation, the whole mentality, the “hearts” of people, and a conversion from a false path to a new orientation for life. Humankind urgently needs social and ecological reforms; but it needs spiritual renewal just as urgently. As religious or spiritual persons we commit ourselves to this task. The spiritual powers of the religions can offer a fundamental sense of trust, a ground of meaning, ultimate standards, and a spiritual home. Of course religions are credible only when they eliminate those conflicts which spring from the religions themselves, dismantling mutual arrogance, mistrust, prejudice, and even hostile images, and thus demonstrating respect for the traditions, holy places, feasts, and rituals of people who believe differently.
Now as before, women and men are treated inhumanely all over the world. They are robbed of their opportunities and their freedom; their human rights are trampled underfoot; their dignity is disregarded. But might does not make right! In the face of all inhumanity our religious and ethical convictions demand that “every human being must be treated humanely!”
This means that every human being without distinction of age, sex, race, skin color, physical or mental ability, language, religion, political view, or national or social origin possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity, and everyone, the individual as well as the state, is therefore obliged to honor this dignity and protect it. Humans must always be the subjects of rights, must be ends, never mere means, never objects of commercialization and industrialization in economics, politics and media, in research institutes, and industrial corporations. No one stands “above good and evil”—no human being, no social class, no influential interest group, no cartel, no police apparatus, no army, and no state. On the contrary: possessed of reason and conscience, every human is obliged to behave in a genuinely human fashion, to do good and avoid evil!
It is the intention of this global ethic to clarify what this means. In it we wish to recall irrevocable, unconditional ethical norms. These should not be bonds and chains, but helps and supports for people to find and realize once again their lives’ direction, values, orientations, and meaning.
There is a principle which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands of years: “What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others.” Or in positive terms: “What you wish done to yourself, do to others!” This should be the irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions.
Every form of egoism should be rejected: all selfishness, whether individual or collective, whether in the form of class thinking, racism, nationalism, or sexism. We condemn these because they prevent humans from being authentically human. Self-determination and self-realization are thoroughly legitimate so long as they are not separated from human self-responsibility and global responsibility, that is, from responsibility for fellow humans and for the planet Earth.
This principle implies very concrete standards to which we humans should hold firm. From it arise four broad, ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in most of the religions of the world.
III. Irrevocable directives.
Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives not determined by egoism but by commitment to their fellow humans and to the world around them. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hatred, envy, jealousy, and violence, not only between individuals but also between social and ethnic groups, between classes, races, nations, and religions. The use of violence, drug trafficking and organized crime, often equipped with new technical possibilities, has reached global proportions. Many places still are ruled by terror “from above;” dictators oppress their own people, and institutional violence is widespread. Even in some countries where laws exist to protect individual freedoms, prisoners are tortured, men and women are mutilated, hostages are killed.
Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in solidarity with one another and to work for authentic fulfillment of their vocations. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hunger, deficiency, and need. Not only individuals, but especially unjust institutions and structures are responsible for these tragedies. Millions of people are without work; millions are exploited by poor wages, forced to the edges of society, with their possibilities for the future destroyed. In many lands the gap between the poor and the rich, between the powerful and the powerless is immense. We live in a world in which totalitarian state socialism as well as unbridled capitalism have hollowed out and destroyed many ethical and spiritual values. A materialistic mentality breeds greed for unlimited profit and a grasping for endless plunder. These demands claim more and more of the community’s resources without obliging the individual to contribute more. The cancerous social evil of corruption thrives in the developing countries and in the developed countries alike.
Numberless women and men of all regions and religions
strive to lead lives of honesty and truthfulness. Nevertheless, all over the
world we find endless lies and deceit, swindling and hypocrisy, ideology
Let no one be deceived: there is no global justice without truthfulness and humaneness!
Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in a spirit of partnership and responsible action in the areas of love, sexuality, and family. Nevertheless, all over the world there are condemnable forms of patriarchy, domination of one sex over the other, exploitation of women, sexual misuse of children, and forced prostitution. Too frequently, social inequities force women and even children into prostitution as a means of survival, particularly in less developed countries.
Only what has already been experienced in personal and familial relationships can be practiced on the level of nations and religions.
IV. A Transformation of
Historical experience demonstrates the following: Earth cannot be changed for the better unless we achieve a transformation in the consciousness of individuals and in public life. The possibilities for transformation have already been glimpsed in areas such as war and peace, economy, and ecology, where in recent decades fundamental changes have taken place. This transformation must also be achieved in the area of ethics and values!
Every individual has intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, and each also has an inescapable responsibility for what she or he does and does not do. All our decisions and deeds, even our omissions and failures, have consequences.
Keeping this sense of responsibility alive, deepening it and passing it on to future generations, is the special task of religions.
We are realistic about what we have achieved in this consensus, and so we urge that the following be observed:
In conclusion, we appeal to all the inhabitants of this planet. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed. We pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousness, for the awakening of our spiritual powers through reflection, meditation, prayer, or positive thinking, for a conversion of the heart. Together we can move mountains! Without a willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation! Therefore we commit ourselves to a common global ethic, to better mutual understanding, as well as to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and Earth-friendly ways of life.
We invite all men and women, whether religious or not, to do the same.
MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY WHO
SIGNED THIS INITIAL DECLARATION AT THE PARLIAMENT
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul-Hamid (Muslim, Malaysia)
Prof. Masao Abe (Buddhist, Japan)
Dr. Thelma Adair (Christian, USA)
H.R.H. Oseijeman Adefunmi I (Indigenous, USA)
Dr. Hamid Ahmed (Muslim, India)
Mrs. Mazhar Ahmed (Muslim, India)
Pravrajika Amalaprana (Hindu, India)
Dastoor Dr. Kersey Antia (Zoroastrian, USA)
Mme. Nana Apeadu (Indigenous, Ghana)
Dr. M. Aram (Hindu, India)
Rev. Wesley Ariarajah (Christian, Switzerland)
Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne (Buddhist, Sri Lanka)
Imam Dawud Assad (Muslim, USA)
Jayashree Athavale-Talwarkar (Hindu, India)
H.H. Shri Atmanandji (Jain, India)
H.I.G. Bambi Baaba (Indigenous, Uganda)
Rev. Thomas A. Baima (Christian, USA)
Dr. Gerald O. Barney (Christian, USA)
H.Em. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin (Christian, USA)
Mr. Karl Berolzheimer (Jewish, USA)
de Béthune (Christian, Belgium)
Dr. Nelvia M. Brady (Christian, USA)
Rev. Marcus Braybrooke (Christian, UK)
Dr. David Breed (Christian, USA)
Rabbi Herbert Bronstein (Jewish, USA)
Rev. John Buchanan (Christian, USA)
Mrs. Radha Burnier (Theosophist, India)
Baroness Cara-Marguerite-Drusilla, L.P.H. (Neo-Pagan, USA)
Mr. Blouke Carus (Christian, USA)
Mr. Peter V. Catches (Native American, USA)
Sister Joan M. Chatfield, M.M. (Christian, USA)
H.H. Swami Chidananda Saraswati (Hindu, India)
Swami Chidananda Saraswati Muniji (Hindu, USA)
Ms. Juana Conrad (Baha’i, USA)
H.H. The Dalai Lama (Buddhist, India)
Swami Dayananda Saraswati (Hindu, USA)
Counsellor Jacqueline Delahunt (Baha’i, USA)
Dr. Yvonne Delk (Christian, USA)
Sister Pratima Desai (Brahma Kumaris, USA)
Dr. Homi Dhalla (Zoroastrian, India)
Very Rev. R. Sheldon Duecker (Christian, USA)
Prof. Diana L. Eck (Christian, USA)
Dr. Wilma Ellis (Baha’i, USA)
Hon. Louis Farrakhan (Muslim, USA)
Dr. Leon D. Finney, Jr. (Christian, USA)
Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. (Christian, USA)
Dr. Rashmikant Gardi (Jain, USA)
Mr. Dipchand S. Gardi (Jain, India)
Mrs. Maria Svolos Gebhard (Christian, USA)
Preah Maha Ghosananda (Buddhist, Cambodia)
Dr. Daniel Gomez-Ibanez (Interfaith, USA)
Dr. Hamid Abdul Hai (Muslim, USA)
Dr. Mohammad Hamidullah (Muslim, Uganda)
B.K. Jagdish Chander Hassija (Brahma Kumaris, India)
Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C. (Christian, USA)
Prof. Susannah Heschel (Jewish, USA)
Dr. Aziza al-Hibri (Muslim, USA)
Mr. Chungliang Al Huang (Taoist, USA)
Dr. Asad Husain (Muslim, USA)
Dato’ Dr. Haji Ismail bin Ibrahim (Muslim, Malaysia)
Prof. Ephraim Isaac (Jewish, USA)
Hon. Narendra P. Jain (Jain, India)
Dastoor Dr. Kaikhusroo Minocher Jamaspasa (Zoroastrian, India)
Very Rev. Frederick C. James (Christian, USA)
Ma Jaya Bhagavati (Interfaith, USA)
Phra Maha Surasak Jivnando (Buddhist, USA)
Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh (Buddhist, Thailand)
Abbot Timothy Kelly, OSB (Christian, USA)
Mr. Jim Kenney (Christian, USA)
Sadguru Sant Keshavadas (Hindu, India)
Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji (Sikh, USA)
Dr. Irfan Ahmad Khan (Muslim, USA)
Dr. Qadir Husain Khan (Muslim, India)
Mr. P.V. Krishnayya (Hindu, USA)
Dr. Lakshmi Kumari (Hindu, India)
Prof. Dr. Hans Kung (Christian, Germany)
Mr. Peter Laurence (Jewish, USA)
Ms. Dolores Leakey (Christian, USA)
Rev. Chung Ok Lee (Buddhist, USA)
Mrs. Norma U. Levitt (Jewish, USA)
Rev. Deborah Ann Light (Neo-Pagan, USA)
Mr. Amrish Mahajan (Hindu, USA)
Sister Joan Monica McGuire, O.P. (Christian, USA)
Imam Warith Deen Mohammed (Muslim, USA)
Very Rev. James Parks Morton (Christian, USA)
Mr. Archie Mosay (Native American, USA)
Dr. Robert Muller (Christian, Costa Rica)
Rev. Albert Nambiaparambil, CMI (Christian, India)
Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Muslim, USA)
Prof. James Nelson (Christian, USA)
Mr. Charles Nolley (Baha’i, USA)
Rev. Koshin Ogui, Sensei (Buddhist, USA)
Dastoor Jehangir Oshidari (Zoroastrian, Iran)
Abdel Rahman Osman (Muslim, USA)
Luang Poh Panyananda (Buddhist, Thailand)
Ven. Achahn Dr. Chuen Phangcham (Buddhist, USA)
Pravrajika Prabuddhaprana (Hindu, India)
B.K. Dadi Prakashmani (Brahma Kumaris, India)
Mr. Burton Pretty On Top (Native American, USA)
Rev. Dr. David Ramage, Jr. (Christian, USA)
Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara (Buddhist, USA)
Dr. Krishna Reddy (Hindu, USA)
Prof. V. Madhusudan Reddy (Hindu, India)
Mrs. Robert Reneker (Christian, USA)
Rev. Dr. Syngman Rhee (Christian, USA)
Mr. Rohinton Rivetna (Zoroastrian, USA)
Lady Olivia Robertson (Neo-Pagan, Eire)
Most Rev. Placido Rodriguez (Christian, USA)
Most Rev. Willy Romulus (Christian, Haiti)
Ven. Seung Sahn (Buddhist, USA)
Swami Satchidananda (Hindu, USA)
Ms. Dorothy Savage (Christian, USA)
Rabbi Herman Schaalman (Jewish, USA)
Hon. Syed Shahabuddin (Muslim, India)
Bhai Mohinder Singh (Sikh, USA)
Dr. Karan Singh (Hindu, India)
Dr. Mehervan Singh (Sikh, Singapore)
Mr. Hardial Singh (Sikh, India)
Mr. Indarjit Singh (Sikh, UK)
Singh Sahib Jathedar Manjit Singh (Sikh, India)
Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra (Sikh, USA)
H.E. Dr. L. M. Singhvi (Jain, UK)
Ms. R. Leilani Smith (Baha’i, USA)
Ms. Helen Spector (Jewish, USA)
Brother David Steindl-Rast, OSB (Christian, USA)
H.H. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (Hindu, USA)
Dr. Howard A. Sulkin (Jewish, USA)
Ven. Samu Sunim (Buddhist, USA)
Hon. Homi Taleyarkhan (Zoroastrian, India)
Mr. John B. Taylor (Christian, Switzerland)
Brother Wayne Teasdale (Christian, USA)
Rev. Margaret Orr Thomas (Christian, USA)
Rev. Robert Traer (Unitarian, UK)
Dr. William F. Vendley (Christian, USA)
Pravrajika Vivekaprana (Hindu, India)
Prof. Henry Wilson (Christian, Switzerland)
Ven. Dr. Mapalagama Wipulasara Maha Thero (Buddhist, Sri Lanka)
Ms. Yael Wurmfeld (Baha’i, USA)
Rev. Addie Wyatt (Christian, USA)
H.H. Dr. Bala Siva Yogindra Maharaj (Hindu, India)
Baba Metahochi Kofi Zannu (Indigenous, Nigeria)
Dastoor Kobad Zarolia (Zoroastrian, Canada)
Dastoor Mehraban Zarthosty (Zoroastrian, Canada)
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This interfaith declaration is the result of a two-year consultation among
approximately two hundred scholars and theologians from many of the
world’s communities of faith. On September 2-4, 1993, the document was
discussed by an assembly of religious and spiritual leaders meeting as part
of the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. Respected
leaders from all the world’s major faiths signed the “Declaration,”
agreeing that it represents an initial effort—a point of beginning for a
world sorely in need of ethical consensus. The Council for a Parliament of
the World’s Religions and those who have endorsed this text offer it to
the world as an initial statement of the rules for living on which the
world’s religions can agree.