faith in action

600 People Attend Human Wellbeing and Sustainable Planet Symposium

The 9th annual symposium, chaired by GBCS Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs, was held in a hybrid format from The Church Center for the United Nations in New York.

9th annual symposium table photo
Speakers discuss religious sustainability and wellbeing at 9th Annual Symposium. *Speakers and Photo Credit Below.

During a five-hour long event on January 24, 2023, speakers from around the world offered their testimony and ideas on the theme of, “Securing People’s Wellbeing and Planetary Sustainability.”

It was the ninth such gathering for Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, GBCS Assistant General Secretary for UN and International Affairs, who led as Chair of the Symposium this year. Both his opening and closing remarks noted how the intersecting threats to people and the planet keep meeting in the arena of religion.

“Security is as much a religious concern as it is a multilateral concern. As such it requires understanding of the religious, theological, ecumenical and interfaith discussions on the subject—legitimate for its own purposes but necessary in relation to religious witness and faith based advocacy in the public sphere,” Bautista said.

The reality of religion’s impact was also articulated by the opening speaker, H.E. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés who was formerly the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense of Ecuador and formerly the President of the UN General Assembly. She wondered if the gap between humanity’s technological capability to do something about our ecological crises and our current lack of action could be filled by religion.

Another speaker, Ms. Nadia Alawamleh who is the Team Leader for the Social Cohesion Programme of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Iraq conveyed her belief that peace for a region with historic violence amongst religious sects would require nothing less than forgiveness.

Mr. Nelson Ngalle, National Programme Officer for the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon’s {PCC} Peace Work Department, poignantly shared glimpses of peace emerging from years of violence. It is the result of the multi-denominational institution of Peace Clubs through which youth are being educated in non-violent engagement in conflict.

These and other such esteemed speakers of the Symposium filled hearts and minds, for hours, with words (simultaneously interpreted into Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish) that called for deeds, extolling the critical role that religion has played so far and will play for a better future for all.

According to Bautista, The General Board of Church and Society will proudly continue to bring to life our United Methodist, “participation in [the] many activities [of the United Nations] allows us to … make it a responsible and effective global force in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding, and in the recognition of human dignity and the protection of human rights.” (2016 UM Book of Resolution #6025)

Find additional coverage of the event by the World Council of Churches here.

Further information on the event’s Co-organizers and Speakers is available here.

The recording of the event, masterfully provided by Dr. Marcelo Schneider and the World Council of Churches Communications Team, is provided below.

*Speakers and Photo Credit: Rev. Dr. Liberato C. Bautista (third from left), Assistant General Secretary for United Nations and International Affairs, General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, served as chair of the 2023 Symposium Planning Team. In this photo taken during the concluding session of the symposium, he is accompanied by Ms. Nika Saeedi (fourth from left), global focal point on Religion, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, and Hate Speech for UNDP, Mr. Jonathan Granoff (first from left), Senior Advisor and Representative to the United Nations of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, and Dr. Ganoune Diop, Director, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, Seventh-day Adventist Church. Photo: World Council of Churches.