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Europe’s Religious Leaders Working Together for Peace

By Stein Villumstad


Religions for Peace-International is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action among the world’s religious communities for peace. The coalition brings together religious leaders as well as grassroots representatives, academics and activists from more than 100 countries.

The European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) is part of this worldwide network alongside the African Council of Religious Leaders, the Latin American Council of Religious Leaders, the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace and the Middle East and North Africa Council of Religious Leaders. The network represents a unique resource for monitoring developments and reaching out to affected communities and decision makers. 

Members of ECRL at a recent gathering. Photo: ECRL

Members of ECRL at a recent gathering. Photo: ECRL

  • Religions for Peace-Europe is a coalition of all Religions for Peace bodies in Europe, including ECRL, European Women of Faith Network, European Interfaith Youth Network and national chapters and interreligious councils in 14 European countries.  European Women of Faith Network (EWFN) as part of the Global Women of Faith Network is a network of national women of faith groups that have committed themselves in a spirit of friendship to work together to promote spiritual values, social justice and peace for an inclusive Europe. Since 2010, EWFN has been seated in ECRL. European Interfaith Youth Network (EIYN) is part of the global Religions for Peace Interfaith Youth Network. Since 2011, EIYN has been seated in ECRL.

ECRL in a Nutshell


ECRL brings together around 45 European senior religious leaders from Judaism, Christianity and Islam, together with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.  One Council member from each of the faith traditions (co-moderator) makes up the six-member Executive Committee of ECRL, which has participatory status with the Council of Europe.


The increasingly multicultural and multireligious Europe calls for action to promote peace and fruitful coexistence for people inside and outside its borders. People of good will must join hands!

While religions have been misused and hijacked by sectarian agendas, religions have assets that should be and are mobilized for human flourishing: spiritual assets at the core of each religious tradition, moral assets calling for respect and appreciation of fellow human beings, and social assets in form of institutions, networks and infrastructure. ECRL builds on Religions for Peace’s three core strengths: 

  • ECRL is multi-religious in nature and is therefore a broad platform for common action.
  • ECRL – a pan-European council – is part of the global Religions for Peace network with global, regional and national expressions and can through them operate simultaneously on these levels.
  • ECRL attempts to be representative, making important links between its individual members and their communities and institutions while respecting their differences; religious leaders and their communities can explore deeply held and widely shared values and concerns in their efforts to promote sustainable peace through dialogue and joint action.

What and How?

ECRL is built on the belief that dialogue and cooperation have a value in themselves, and ECRL is therefore a European platform for interreligious dialogue, cooperation and representation – including: 

  • Annual meetings of the full council – addressing important ethical and social issues in addition to organizational business,
  • Consultations and conferences for a wider range of participants to address specific concerns –responding to critical situations or on-going challenges,
  • Statements, publications – so far including declarations on culture of peace, tolerance, human dignity through human rights and traditional values, and living together in equal citizenship, and
  • Representative delegations and visits to communities in conflict or with particular challenges, on specific occasions and to important stakeholders. Religious leaders are often highly respected and can explore deeply held and widely shared values and concerns in their efforts to promote sustainable peace through dialogue and joint action.

A Multireligious European Agent of Human Dignity

At the same time, ECRL is a multi-religious European agent of human dignity, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation through:

  • preventing violent conflicts, engaging in conflict resolution, and acting to eliminate proliferation of weapons and promoting disarmament,
  • defending and promoting human dignity, human rights and freedom of religion and belief – through advocacy actions targeting national and European authorities and our own religious communities,
  • promoting appropriate roles of religion in the public sphere,
  • supporting the dignity and rights of women and children in Europe –particularly through supporting the “Restoring Dignity” program of the Women of Faith Network,
  • taking action beyond the borders of Europe - when called upon, and in societies where ECRL can play a significant role (ECRL is currently involved in dialogue programs with the Middle East and North Africa, and is accompanying the Inter-faith Council in Kyrgyzstan. ECRL will further continue its engagements in East Timor and Sri Lanka in cooperation with Religions for Peace International.),
  • engaging in global issues that deeply concern European religious communities – campaigning to abolish nuclear weapons, cluster munitions and for a global Arms Trade Treaty, and increasing religious leaders’ commitment to fighting HIV/Aids, and
  • promoting the Universal Code on Holy Sites at the United Nations General Assembly and its implementation on the ground in an increasing number of countries.

In addition, ECRL is working with One World in Dialogue, Oslo Center for Peace, and Human Rights and Search for Common Ground.

This profile is abridged from the original article published by Religions for Peace-European Council of Religious leaders.