ROME STATEMENT: Consultative Meeting with Spiritual Leaders on Peace, Development, Population and the Environment

La Civiltà Cattolica
March 9-10, 1987
Rome, Italy

PREFACE TO THE ROME STATEMENT
by Takeo Fukuda
Honorary Chairman
InterAction Council

My greatest concern has been and is the difficult situation the world faces. Whether one looks at the world politically, militarily or economically, problems abound. And physical conditions surrounding our life, including population, development and environment, also present us with unprecedented crises. We simply will have no future, if we failed in our responses to these precarious settings. They require perseverance and determined efforts on our part, if we want to leave the world safe for our posterity.

Starting with such awareness, I convened in 1983 the InterAction Council with over two dozens of former heads of states and governments to consider how these problems can be solved and to act upon our convictions. While incumbent leaders are also concerned with these problems, they are preoccupied with daily events and are constrained by their respective national interests. I felt that former leaders with abundant experience which provides a certain dimension of wisdom, should not be complacent. The InterAction Council has had five plenary sessions and many special study group meetings. And we have had considerable impact on the world.

But I thought further, I have long felt that world peace and welfare of mankind concern religious groups as much as political figures. Would it not be significant for political and religious leaders to gather together and discuss the problems and issues of mutual concern? I felt that an understanding could be obtained from religious groups and that a certain common denominator might be found. After all, the importance of human being is universal.

So, some of the InterAction Council members met with leaders of five major religions of the world in Rome in the spring of 1987. It was agreed that the world's situation is such that there is no future for mankind, if we failed to take up the challenges presented to us and that there is no room for political and religious leaders to jointly contribute to solving some of these problems. It was enormously gratifying for me to confirm that a broad agreement was reached on the fundamental difficulties of the world by representatives of the groups conventionally considered to have such divergent and even confronting views.

The agreement reached in Rome encourages us to continue our efforts. The meeting was an unprecedented effort in the human history and a very valuable one. I know that continued efforts to seek the meeting of minds will bring joint actions. I am grateful to have confirmed my belief with my own eyes and I offer my profound appreciation to the providence.

PREFACE TO THE ROME STATEMENT
by Helmut Schmidt
Chairman
InterAction Council

Since the deep impressions which my conversation with Anwar el Sadat in the mid-seventies left on me - and especially after reflecting more about Sadat - my curiosity for the religious, philosophical and ethical tangencies and correspondences among the cultural areas of this world has become ever greater. Without mutual understanding it is difficult to serve peace.

But whether in Palestine or any other place of the world, it is difficult to imagine the idea of an "eternal peace" (as propagated by Immanuel Kant) to become reality. Of course, most people accept the moral value of this goal. Nevertheless, it also seems deductable from history that there is a high probability for further conflicts that will be solved by arms also in the future - in spite of a League of Nations or the United Nations and in spite of a far reaching cartel of the world powers.

Yet, the fact remains true: the earlier and the more often conflicts are defused and transformed towards compromises before leading to international use of force, the more there is a hope to evade wars. Or, in reverse: the more people resort to religious, nationalistic, racial or ideological radicalism and fundamentalism, the lesser will be their mutual understanding and the greater the probability of use of force and of war.

It was the wish for mutual listening, which brought together religious and political leaders in Rome. We did not only convene as Muslims, Jews and Christians, as Hindus and Buddhists or as free-thinkers, we also came as democrats and communists, s conservatives or liberals; we came from utterly different dictatorships or utterly different democracies; we came from all the five continents of the world; we were black, brown, yellow or white. Despite those enormous differences, we did not only understand each other, we even agreed on deadly important questions.

It may seem simple to agree upon the wish for peace. But it is difficult - and this goes equally for religious and political leaders - to tangibly serve peace in our daily actions and omissions. It also may be relatively simple to realize that the world's population explosion, which so far could not be slowed down, will in a few generations not only mean great economic suffering for billions of people, but also will mean an energy consumption that inevitably will change the chemical composition of the troposphere within a few decades and result in a greenhouse-effect leading to catastrophic consequences for an even greater number of people. Yet, in our daily actions and omissions, it is difficult to work for a slowing down of the world's population growth and to make family planning a purpose for billions of human couples.

It was an important signal that priests of all religions as well as political leaders from all quarters of the world acknowledged the importance of family planning. Many other leaders must also be made aware of this importance.

Scarifies are not unilateral. To give is to have. At the end of the 20th century, the threats to humanity can only be avoided by solidarity.

STATEMENT ON GLOBAL ISSUES

Introduction

For the first time in recent history, political and spiritual leaders from all contents and five major religions met in Rome at the invitation of the InterAction Council. Over two days, the participants engaged in a discussion on world peace, the global economy and the interrelated areas of development, population and environment.

The leaders agreed that humankind is confronted by the greatest set of crises in history, yet measures adequate to meet them have not bee defined or devised. Unless there are effective and correct responses to the challenge presented by these crisis, there will be no enduring future.

They further agreed that, in addressing these problems, there are many areas for cooperation between spiritual and political leaders in their shared devotion to moral values, peace and human well-being.

The initial exchange of views resulted in striking degree of common perception, evaluation of present dangers and recognition of a need for action built on a widely shared ethical basis.

The leaders assembled in Rome agreed that such contacts must be continued by the InterAction Council and others at the global and regional levels, involving political, intellectual and scientific leaders, and should influence, with the support of the media, political decision-making processes.

Peace

Today, peace has lost its true meaning in a world which since World War II has not seen a single day without war, conflict, poverty and widescale human and environmental degradation. Ethical principles shared by all participants led them to conclude that genuine peace can only be accomplished through an ongoing process of dialogue and receptive understanding permeating all areas of society and international contacts.

All participants, therefore, welcome efforts to bring about disarmament. The United States and Soviet Union should honor their treaty commitments to achieve cuts in strategic weapon levels and continue negotiations aimed at even further reductions. Policies of countries like the People's Republic of China and Argentina to cut their military budgets provides examples for progress.

Scientific and engineering resources and capabilities presently devoted to the arms race should be redirected to the solution of global problems threatening human survival and welfare: the development of alternative energy resources and new transportation systems and technologies to mitigate the effects of impending climatic changes; the further exploration of the decay of the ozone layer; the prevention of a continued decline in the number of biological species; and measures to counter the threats to the biosphere.

World Economy

For moral, political and economic reasons, humanity must strive towards a more equitable economic structure reversing the present appalling poverty which afflicts vast numbers of human beings throughout the world. Change can only be accomplished through a series of decisions and dialogue predicated on enlightened self-interest on the part of the industrialized and mutually supportive policies on the part of the developing countries.

The debt crisis with its ominous consequences must be resolved with a sense of urgency. Debt servicing cannot be met at the price of suffocating a country's economy and no government can morally demand of its people privations incompatible with human dignity. All parties involved must make a tangible contribution and honor the moral principle of burden-sharing.

Emergency assistance programmes are an indispensable part of ensuring the survival of many people and communities currently enduring abject poverty. There is a paramount need for fostering a sense of global solidarity for survival.

Development - Population - Environment

It was stressed that moral values for the family in the future and the recognition of the common responsibility of women and men are indispensable in dealing with these issues. Rapid population growth in many developing countries vitiates any advance in development. This fuels the vicious cycle between underdevelopment, population growth and the erosion of human life-support systems. Responsible public policies require systematic projections of population, environmental and economic trends with particular attention to their interaction.

Cognizant of the different approaches of religions towards family planning policies and methods, the leaders yet agreed that present trends make the pursuit of effective family planning inevitable. The positive experience of several countries and religions should be shared and scientific research into family planning should be accelerated.