World Conference on Religion and Peace Archive

“The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) is an international organization of representatives of the world’s major religious traditions who meet to study and act upon global problems affecting peace, justice, and human survival. Five world conferences have been held (Kyoto, 1970; Louvain, 1974; Princeton, 1979; Nairobi, 1984; and Melbourne, 1989) as well as numerous regional assemblies. From 1970-1984, the international headquarters in New York was directed by Homer A. Jack, Secretary-General. The headquarters was moved to Geneva, Switzerland in 1984, with John B. Taylor as Secretary-General. The collection includes meeting minutes (1970-1987); correspondence (1968-1984); WCRP publications, reports, press releases, financial records, Homer Jack’s notes and memoranda on meetings, photographs and sound tape recordings. Materials relating to the major world conferences include minutes of preparatory committees, correspondence with participants, background material, and conference documents, resolutions, and reports. Major subject areas are disarmament and human rights.”

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Collection: DG 078

Historical Background
The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), was “a world-wide movement, consisting of men and women of faith who meet to share their concerns about the many factors and situations which threaten world peace and deny human dignity. While acknowledging that religious elements have aggravated rather than reconciled existing tensions and conflicts, yet we would work together as religious people and with all people of good-will for the realization of a world free of violence — a world in which all people may live in freedom, justice, and peace.” [quoted from the brochure announcing the Fourth World Assembly in August 1984]

The first World Conference on Religion and Peace (1st world assembly) was held in Kyoto, Japan, in October 1970, but the idea for holding such a conference is attributed to the dreams of four religious leaders in the United States who began meeting in the fall of 1962. Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath, Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, Bishop John Wesley Lord, and Bishop John Wright, together with several others, arranged two conferences in the U.S. (the first in January 1964 in New York and a second, much larger, National Inter-Religious Conference on Peace in Washington in March 1966) before deciding to explore the possibilities for a world-wide conference of religious leaders. In 1967, Homer A. Jack and Herschel Halbert traveled to Asia to seek out sympathetic partners with whom they could work to plan for a world conference. In January 1968, a group of 20 Americans undertook a round-the-world peace mission, with stops in Geneva, Rome, Istanbul, and Jerusalem to consult with top representatives of four major world religions. The trip included a week-long International Inter-Religious Symposium on Peace in New Delhi (sponsored by the U.S. Inter-Religious Committee on Peace and the Gandhi Peace Foundation) and a Japanese-American Inter-Religious Consultation on Peace held on January 22, 1968, in Kyoto. Based on the success of these meetings, an Interim Advisory Committee (composed of religious leaders primarily from India, Japan, and the U.S.) was formed which gathered in Istanbul in February 1969 to explore convening a world conference. This led to the formation of a Preparatory Committee for a World Conference on Religion and Peace which met in July and December 1969. Archbishop Angelo I. Fernandes agreed to serve as President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, with Rev. Nikkyo Niwano and Dr. Dana McLean Greeley as co-chairmen. Homer A. Jack, then working for the Unitarian Universalist Association in Boston, became Secretary-Genera, working first in Boston and later in Japan.

[Excerpted from the Swarthmore College World Conference on Religion and Peace Archive. For full historical background and information on the archival collection, visit the World Confererence on Religion and Peace Records at Swarthmore College.]