Study calls for greater religious tolerance with Hinduism and Buddhism under-represented and funding a major issue
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.
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.
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.
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.”
The report questions claims by the Christian right that new age cults run the UN , saying evidence suggests these are greatly misjudged and erroneous.
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.