World Council of Churches - Update
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org

For immediate release - 02/06/2005

As representatives from the world's major faith communities prepare to meet in Geneva 7-9 June 2005, leaders of the World Council of Churches (WCC) have expressed hope that the event will provide a new impetus to interreligious dialogue.

Recognizing the difficulties facing interreligious relations in many contexts provoked by conflict and migration, the "Critical Moment Conference" hopes to signal a shift in approaches to interreligious dialogue.

The conference is organized by the WCC and will involve over 120 Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and other religious leaders, academics, human rights activists, humanitarian workers, journalists, and people experienced in working across religious traditions and from virtually all regions.

"The question is no longer why do we need dialogue but rather how do we transform dialogue into peaceful coexistence; how do we translate dialogue into common action?" underlines Catholicos Aram I, moderator of the WCC central committee. "It is our hope that this conference will initiate a process aimed at deepening and enlarging the scope of interreligious reflection and collaboration."

The conference will take a "hard look" at the challenges of violence and prejudice which undermine dialogue, predicts WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia. "Dialogue between faiths remains a high priority for the WCC, but now there is a need to move into a new phase, into a dialogue of life, society and ethics which all people struggle with."

Speakers at the event will include such prominent voices in interfaith dialogue as Swami Agnivesh, Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, Prof. Rita M. Gross, H.E. Seyyed Ali Abtahi, Prof. Tariq Ramadan, Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Mr Cemal Usak, Prof. Anant Rambachan, Dr Homi Dhalla, Ven. Lama Denys Teundroup, Dr Vinu Aram, Dr Wande Abimbola, Dr Heba Raouf Ezzat, Dr Nana Kobina Nketsia V, Mr Chaiwat Satha-Anand, and Rev. Valson Thampu.

The conference programme will include a series of presentations and dialogue sessions on the themes of "thinking together", "assessing the present", and "imagining the future". A vision statement will set out a framework for future dialogue efforts.

The conference is open to press representatives (advance accreditation required). Daily briefings with keynote and plenary speakers (see conference programme) will be scheduled at lunch time.

The conference programme and a list of scheduled speakers with biographical information, documents, news and photos are available on the conference website which will be updated daily during the event:

This material may be reprinted freely.

Additional information: Juan Michel,+41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 media@wcc-coe.org

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 347, in more than 120 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Samuel Kobia from the Methodist church in Kenya.