A "spiritual summit" bringing together 1,000 of the world's religious and spiritual leaders is being organized by the United Nations next August-the first such gathering in the UN's 54-year history. The Millennium World Peace Summit, as the gathering is known, will take place from August 28 to 31, 2000 just days before the world's political leaders gather for the UN Millennium Heads of State Summit.

"Our dream is to get the pre-eminent religious leaders to the UN so they can support the peace process, in concert with the political bodies there," Bawa Jain, the executive co-ordinator of the world peace summit, said today 3 December in Cape Town.

"I definitely feel that the religious and spiritual communities can play a substantial role in easing tensions in the world zones of conflict," he added.

UN secretary-general Kofi Annan will give the welcoming address at the religious summit.

"Ultimately, this first-ever council of senior religious and spiritual advisers will be established as a resource to the UN secretary-general, and its members could be 'parachuted' into trouble spots," Jain said.

Jain was speaking at a media briefing held during the 1999 Parliament of World Religions, which opened in Cape Town on 1 December. Much of the work and discussions of the 10-day parliament will be channeled into next August's gathering of religious leaders.

Almost 6,000 international and local spiritual leaders, theologians and believers from the world's major religions are attending the parliament, which includes a wide range of talks, symposia, plenary sessions, workshops, worship and meditation.

Western secular clothes and clerical garb were juxtaposed at the opening ceremony with flowing saffron robes, red cassocks and orange Buddhist robes, ...

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