Want to turn holy sites into beacons of peace

Churches, Mosques and Synagogues are being used by political leaders to spread hatred in war and conflict. On Monday 27th of July political and religious leaders gather in Trondheim to create a code to protect holy sites and turn them into bacons of peace. “Conflicts regarding holy sites must be included in peace dialogues”, says Kjell Magne Bondevik, president at the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

Religious leaders, academics, international organizations and politicians from the Middle East, the Balkans and Turkey meet in Trondheim 27th and 28th of July to discuss the role of holy sites in the conflict.

Behind this initiative are the foundation One World in Dialogue and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. This year’s conference is the second step towards an international code to protect holy sites (Code of Holy Sites). The aim is also that this may be a tool to solve conflicts regarding the ownership and access to holy sites, and that the code should ensure that the holy sites can be used for worship during as well as after conflicts.

“We have seen that the destruction of religious buildings and places are effective means to reinforce the conflict between people. History also shows us that the conflicts around the holy sites help to impede the peace process”, says Berit Lånke, spokesperson for One World in Dialogue.

“The conflict in the Middle East underlines the importance of holy sites. It is obvious that a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict must include the question of ownership and access to the holy sites in Jerusalem. This dimension has not been given enough attention in earlier negotiations. The conflicts in Jerusalem displays that the political processes often cannot be separated from religion, even if it is not a religious conflict to start with”, says Kjell Magne Bondevik, president at the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

This year’s conference in Trondheim is an important second step on the way to finalize text in the “Code of Holy Sites”. The initiative started in Trondheim last year, when the participants agreed on a common basis and goals for the further process.

“For the code of holy sites to be followed, it is essential to create support and commitment among religious and political leaders, in addition to the relevant international organizations. This will constitute an important part of the efforts in the months after the conference in Trondheim”, says Kjell Magne Bondevik at the Oslo Center.

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