Call for Cessation of Violence at Millennium's Dawn
Is world peace possible? William Swing, Episcopal bishop of
California, thinks so. He and other members of the United Religions
Initiative, an international consortium of religious leaders, have
even scheduled the first day of peace: Dec. 31, 1999.
They are organizing 72 Hours of Interfaith Peacebuilding, which
calls for a cessation of all violence in homes, communities and
countries from Dec. 31, 1999, to Jan. 2, 2000.
'We would like there to be a worldwide three-day cease-fire so
we could end the millennium in peace and start the next one
thousand years in peace,' Swing said. 'During that time of
cease-fire, we would like people to use that in a constructive way
of peace making across hard border lines.'
Some interfaith peace-building initiatives have already been
planned. For example:
- In Washington, D.C., citywide interfaith services focusing on
reconciliation, celebration and new spiritual visions will be held
during the 72 hours.
- In Ethiopia, a United Religions group will plant a Peace Pole
and focus on reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
- In Pakistan, the Catholic Bishops National Commission for
Christian Muslim Relations are organizing a March for Peace from
one end of the country to the other, a distance of nearly 1,500
The peace-building mission is one of the first projects of The
United Religions Initiative, which will culminate next year in the
creation of United Religions, an international organization with
representatives of all faiths whose purpose will include advocating
love, supporting freedom of worship and maintaining peace among the
The seed for United Religions was planted in Swing?s mind after
he was asked to speak at a service in honor of the United Nations
50th anniversary. An idea lingered, he said: if political leaders
could work together daily for peace, why couldn't religious
In founding the United Religions Initiative, said Swing, most of
the approval came from the the religious grassroots. Religious
leaders were less willing to participate because United Religions
creates a level playing field in which no religion predominates or
controls, he said.
Leaders also questioned representation, which Swing acknowledged
would be problematic, but not impossible, to solve. 'If every
nation has one vote in the U.N., how would you have a gathering
where every religion has one vote? Who would be the one vote for
the Jews? Or Islam?' he said.
Additionally, religious leaders worried that they would be
perceived as 'watering down the exclusive truths of their own
faith' or selling out by engaging in interfaith work, Swing said.
And they questioned which religions would qualify for a voting
seat. 'Another issue is who are the real, valid religions and which
are the snake oil salesman-type religions that seem to be there to
exploit or rainwash,' he said.