Press Release

21 October 2008

Faith-Based Organizations from All Continents Create Global Network to Fight Maternal Death, AIDS, Poverty

ISTANBUL, Turkey—More than 75 religious leaders and representatives of Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith-based organizations today formed a global interfaith network to strengthen cooperation against the global urgencies of maternal death, AIDS and poverty.

The interfaith network was formed in Istanbul at the conclusion of a two-day Global Forum of Faith-based Organizations, convened by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, which has partnerships with over 400 different faith-based organizations in more than 100 countries.

The Interfaith Network on Population and Development was established after leaders of faith and of faith-based groups agreed on the principles of the network, which will also address violence against women and issues related to youth and migration. The leaders came from Africa; the Arab region; Asia and the Pacific; Eastern Europe; and Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We commit to work together and join forces to advance human conditions and realize the rights of individuals, with attention to women and young people,” the leaders pledged. They also committed to share their experiences and affirmed the common aims of safeguarding the dignity and human rights of all peoples.

“We gathered here in Istanbul to discuss common challenges and to reach common ground,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, UNFPA’s Executive Director, inaugurating the network. The common ground, she continued, was “how we can work together to ensure that every birth is wanted, every pregnancy is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

“We have learned that the teachings of faith traditions can address root causes and focus on prevention to make progress in the areas we have discussed,” Ms. Obaid said. These, she continued, include “to improve maternal health, promote the empowerment of women, address HIV and AIDS and the challenges faced by youth and migrants, to tackle violence against women and provide support to people affected by conflict and crisis.”

The Global Forum that gave birth to the Interfaith Network was opened on Monday, 20 October, by the Representative of Religious Affairs in Turkey, Mustafa Cagrici. Without the power of religions, he said, many of today’s problems cannot be solved. He commended UNFPA for understanding the important role of religious leaders in solving many social problems.

“We have learned that while we come from different faiths, different regions and different experiences,” said Ms. Obaid at Tuesday’s conclusion, “we share the common values of compassion, tolerance, respect for differences, and a passion to try to improve the lives of the people we serve.”

Many representatives at the Global Forum said that, in order to achieve concrete results, network members should build bridges among religious leaders, political decision makers and secular civil society. They also said that all members of the network at the national, regional and global levels should be connected, treated as equal partners, and work together to find solutions through their respective beliefs and actions. Strong country and regional alliances will constitute necessary building blocks for effective networking and common action.

Contact Information:

Omar Gharzeddine
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5028
Email: gharzeddine@unfpa.org

Nezih Tavlaş
UNFPA Turkey
Tel.: + 90 506 764 39 89
Email: nezih.tavlas@un.org.tr

Meltem Ağduk
UNFPA Turkey
Tel.: + 90 533 443 51 29 / 312 454 10 68
Email: meltem.agduk@un.org.tr