The Declaration of a Global Ethic
1993 Parliament of the World's Religions
August 28 - September 5, 1993 Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
* We affirm that this truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action.
o We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races,
nations, and religions. There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the
religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order.
o The world is in agony. The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the
depth of this pain may be made clear.
o Peace eludes us ... the planet is being destroyed ... neighbors live in fear ... women and men are estranged from each other
... children die!
o This is abhorrent!
o We condemn the abuses of Earth's ecosystems.
o We condemn the poverty that stifles life's potential; the hunger that weakens the human body; the economic disparities that
threaten so many families with ruin.
o We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy
overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence. In particular we condemn aggression and hatred
in the name of religion.
o But this agony need not be.
o It need not be because the basis for an ethic already exists. This ethic offers the possibility of a better individual and
global order, and leads individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos.
o We are women and men who have embraced the precepts and practices of the world's religions:
o We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of
a global ethic.
* We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living
beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water and soil.
* We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences.
* We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and
diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance. We must be able
to forgive, learning from the past but never allowing ourselves to be enslaved by memories of hate. Opening our hearts to
one another, we must sink our narrow differences for the cause of the world community, practicing a culture of solidarity
* We consider humankind our family. We must strive to be kind and generous. We must not live for ourselves alone, but should
also serve others, never forgetting the children, the aged, the poor, the suffering, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely.
No person should ever be considered or treated as a second-class citizen, or be exploited in any way whatsoever. There should
be equal partnership between men and women. We must not commit any kind of sexual immorality. We must put behind us all forms
of domination or abuse.
* We commit ourselves to a culture of nonviolence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or
kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences.
* We must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a
human being. We must speak and act truthfully and with compassion, dealing fairly with all, and avoiding prejudice and hatred.
We must not steal. We must move beyond the dominance of greed for power, prestige, money, and consumption to make a just and
* Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. We pledge to increase our
awareness by disciplining our minds, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking. Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice
there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore we commit ourselves to this global ethic, to understanding
one another, and to socially beneficial peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life.
* We invite all people, whether religious or not, to do the same.
* *** *
The Principles of a Global Ethic
Our world is experiencing a fundamental crisis: A crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics. The lack
of a grand vision, the tangle of unresolved problems, political paralysis, mediocre political leadership with little insight
or foresight, and in general too little sense for the commonweal are seen everywhere: Too many old answers to new challenges.
Hundreds of millions of human beings on our planet increasingly suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, and the destruction
of their families. Hope for a lasting peace among nations slips away from us. There are tensions between the sexes and generations.
Children die, kill, and are killed. More and more countries are shaken by corruption in politics and business. It is increasingly
difficult to live together peacefully in our cities because of social, racial, and ethnic conflicts, the abuse of drugs, organized
crime, and even anarchy. Even neighbors often live in fear of one another. Our planet continues to be ruthlessly plundered.
A collapse of the ecosystem threatens us.
Time and again we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate, and xenophobia - even inspire
and legitimize violent and bloody conflicts. Religion often is misused for purely power-political goals, including war. We
are filled with disgust.
We condemn these blights and declare that they need not be. An ethic already exists within the religious teachings of the
world which can counter the global distress. Of course this ethic provides no direct solution for all the immense problems
of the world, but it does supply the moral foundation for a better individual and global order: A vision which can lead women
and men away from despair, and society away from chaos.
We are persons who have committed ourselves to the precepts and practices of the world's religions. We confirm that there
is already a consensus among the religions which can be the basis for a global ethic - a minimal fundamental consensus concerning
binding values, irrevocable standards, and fundamental moral attitudes.
I. No new global order without a new global ethic!
We women and men of various religions and regions of Earth therefore address all people, religious and non-religious. We wish
to express the following convictions which we hold in common:
* We all have a responsibility for a better global order.
* Our involvement for the sake of human rights, freedom, justice, peace, and the preservation of Earth is absolutely necessary.
* Our different religious and cultural traditions must not prevent our common involvement in opposing all forms of inhumanity
and working for greater humaneness.
* The principles expressed in this Global Ethic can be affirmed by all persons with ethical convictions, whether religiously
grounded or not.
* As religious and spiritual persons we base our lives on an Ultimate Reality, and draw spiritual power and hope therefrom,
in trust, in prayer or meditation, in word or silence. We have a special responsibility for the welfare of all humanity and
care for the planet Earth. We do not consider ourselves better than other women and men, but we trust that the ancient wisdom
of our religions can point the way for the future.
After two world wars and the end of the cold war, the collapse of Fascism and Nazism, the shaking to the foundations of Communism
and colonialism, humanity has entered a new phase of its history. Today we possess sufficient economic, cultural, and spiritual
resources to introduce a better global order. But old and new ethnic, national, social, economic, and religious tensions threaten
the peaceful building of a better world. We have experienced greater technological progress than ever before, yet we see that
world-wide poverty, hunger, death of children, unemployment, misery, and the destruction of nature have not diminished but
rather have increased. Many peoples are threatened with economic ruin, social disarray, political marginalization, ecological
catastrophe, and national collapse.
In such a dramatic global situation humanity needs a vision of peoples living peacefully together, of ethnic and ethical groupings
and of religions sharing responsibility for the care of Earth. A vision rests on hopes, goals, ideals, standards. But all
over the world these have slipped from our hands. Yet we are convinced that, despite their frequent abuses and failures, it
is the communities of faith who bear a responsibility to demonstrate that such hopes, ideals, and standards can be guarded,
grounded, and lived. This is especially true in the modern state. Guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion are necessary
but they do not substitute for binding values, convictions, and norms which are valid for all humans regardless of their social
origin, sex, skin color, language, or religion.
We are convinced of the fundamental unity of the human family on Earth. We recall the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
Rights of the United Nations. What it formally proclaimed on the level of rights we wish to confirm and deepen here from the
perspective of an ethic: The full realization of the intrinsic dignity of the human person, the inalienable freedom and equality
in principle of all humans, and the necessary solidarity and interdependence of all humans with each other.
On the basis of personal experiences and the burdensome history of our planet we have learned
* that a better global order cannot be created or enforced by laws, prescriptions, and conventions alone;
* that the realization of peace, justice, and the protection of Earth depends on the insight and readiness of men and women
to act justly;
* that action in favor of rights and freedoms presumes a consciousness of responsibility and duty, and that therefore both
the minds and hearts of women and men must be addressed;
* that rights without morality cannot long endure, and that there will be no better global order without a global ethic.
By a global ethic we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly
not the domination of one religion over all others. By a global ethic we mean a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable
standards, and personal attitudes. Without such a fundamental consensus on an ethic, sooner or later every community will
be threatened by chaos or dictatorship, and individuals will despair.
II. A fundamental demand: Every human being must be treated humanely.
We all are fallible, imperfect men and women with limitations and defects. We know the reality of evil. Precisely because
of this, we feel compelled for the sake of global welfare to express what the fundamental elements of a global ethic should
be-for individuals as well as for communities and organizations, for states as well as for the religions themselves. We trust
that our often millennia-old religious and ethical traditions provide an ethic which is convincing and practicable for all
women and men of good will, religious and non-religious.
At the same time we know that our various religious and ethical traditions often offer very different bases for what is helpful
and what is unhelpful for men and women, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. We do not wish to
gloss over or ignore the serious differences among the individual religions. However, they should not hinder us from proclaiming
publicly those things which we already hold in common and which we jointly affirm, each on the basis of our own religious
or ethical grounds.
We know that religions cannot solve the environmental, economic, political, and social problems of Earth. However they can
provide what obviously cannot be attained by economic plans, political programs, or legal regulations alone: A change in the
inner orientation, the whole mentality, the "hearts" of people, and a conversion from a false path to a new orientation for
life. Humankind urgently needs social and ecological reforms, but it needs spiritual renewal just as urgently. As religious
or spiritual persons we commit ourselves to this task. The spiritual powers of the religions can offer a fundamental sense
of trust, a ground of meaning, ultimate standards, and a spiritual home. Of course religions are credible only when they eliminate
those conflicts which spring from the religions themselves, dismantling mutual arrogance, mistrust, prejudice, and even hostile
images, and thus demonstrate respect for the traditions, holy places, feasts, and rituals of people who believe differently.
Now as before, women and men are treated inhumanely all over the world. They are robbed of their opportunities and their freedom;
their human rights are trampled underfoot; their dignity is disregarded. But might does not make right! In the face of all
inhumanity our religious and ethical convictions demand that every human being must be treated humanely!
This means that every human being without distinction of age, sex, race, skin color, physical or mental ability, language,
religion, political view, or national or social origin possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity. and everyone, the
individual as well as the state, is therefore obliged to honor this dignity and protect it. Humans must always be the subjects
of rights, must be ends, never mere means, never objects of commercialization and industrialization in economics, politics
and media, in research institutes, and industrial corporations. No one stands "above good and evil" - no human being, no social
class, no influential interest group, no cartel, no police apparatus, no army, and no state. On the contrary: Possessed of
reason and conscience, every human is obliged to behave in a genuinely human fashion, to do good and avoid evil!
It is the intention of this Global Ethic to clarify what this means. In it we wish to recall irrevocable, unconditional ethical
norms. These should not be bonds and chains, but helps and supports for people to find and realize once again their lives'
direction, values, orientations, and meaning.
There is a principle which is found and has persisted in many religious and ethical traditions of humankind for thousands
of years: What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others. Or in positive terms: What you wish done to yourself,
do to others! This should be the irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for
races, nations, and religions.
Every form of egoism should be rejected: All selfishness, whether individual or collective, whether in the form of class thinking,
racism, nationalism, or sexism. We condemn these because they prevent humans from being authentically human. Self-determination
and self-realization are thoroughly legitimate so long as they are not separated from human self-responsibility and global
responsibility, that is, from responsibility for fellow humans and for the planet Earth.
This principle implies very concrete standards to which we humans should hold firm. From it arise four broad, ancient guidelines
for human behavior which are found in most of the religions of the world.
III. Irrevocable directives.
1. Commitment to a Culture of Non-violence and Respect for Life.
Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives not determined by egoism but by commitment to their
fellow humans and to the world around them. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hatred, envy, jealousy, and violence,
not only between individuals but also between social and ethnic groups, between classes, races, nations, and religions. The
use of violence, drug trafficking and organized crime, often equipped with new technical possibilities, has reached global
proportions. Many places still are ruled by terror "from above;" dictators oppress their own people, and institutional violence
is widespread. Even in some countries where laws exist to protect individual freedoms, prisoners are tortured, men and women
are mutilated, hostages are killed.
a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not kill! Or in positive
terms: Have respect for life! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: All people have a right to
life, safety, and the free development of personality insofar as they do not injure the rights of others. No one has the right
physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill, any other human being. And no people, no state, no race, no
religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to "cleanse," to exile, much less to liquidate a "foreign" minority
which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs.
b) Of course, wherever there are humans there will be conflicts. Such conflicts, however, should be resolved without violence
within a framework of justice. This is true for states as well as for individuals. Persons who hold political power must work
within the framework of a just order and commit themselves to the most non-violent, peaceful solutions possible. And they
should work for this within an international order of peace which itself has need of protection and defense against perpetrators
of violence. Armament is a mistaken path; disarmament is the commandment of the times. Let no one be deceived: There is no
survival for humanity without global peace!
c) Young people must learn at home and in school that violence may not be a means of settling differences with others. Only
thus can a culture of non-violence be created.
d) A human person is infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected. But likewise the lives of animals and plants
which inhabit this planet with us deserve protection, preservation, and care. Limitless exploitation of the natural foundations
of life, ruthless destruction of the biosphere, and militarization of the cosmos are all outrages. As human beings we have
a special responsibility -- specially with a view to future generations-for Earth and the cosmos, for the air, water, and
soil. We are all intertwined together in this cosmos and we are all dependent on each other. Each one of us depends on the
welfare of all. Therefore the dominance of humanity over nature and the cosmos must not be encouraged. Instead we must cultivate
living in harmony with nature and the cosmos.
e) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means that in public as well as in
private life we must be concerned for others and ready to help. We must never be ruthless and brutal. Every people, every
race, every religion must show tolerance and respect - indeed high appreciation - for every other. Minorities need protection
and support, whether they be racial, ethnic, or religious.
2. Commitment to a Culture of Solidarity and a Just Economic Order.
Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in solidarity with one another and to work
for authentic fulfillment of their vocations. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hunger, deficiency, and need.
Not only individuals, but especially unjust institutions and structures are responsible for these tragedies. Millions of people
are without work; millions are exploited by poor wages, forced to the edges of society, with their possibilities for the future
destroyed. In many lands the gap between the poor and the rich, between the powerful and the powerless is immense. We live
in a world in which totalitarian state socialism as well as unbridled capitalism have hollowed out and destroyed many ethical
and spiritual values. A materialistic mentality breeds greed for unlimited profit and a grasping for endless plunder. These
demands claim more and more of the community's resources without obliging the individual to contribute more. The cancerous
social evil of corruption thrives in the developing countries and in the developed countries alike.
a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not steal! Or in positive
terms: Deal honestly and fairly! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No one has the right to
rob or dispossess in any way whatsoever any other person or the commonwealth. Further, no one has the right to use her or
his possessions without concern for the needs of society and Earth.
b) Where extreme poverty reigns, helplessness and despair spread, and theft occurs again and again for the sake of survival.
Where power and wealth are accumulated ruthlessly, feelings of envy, resentment, and deadly hatred and rebellion inevitably
well up in the disadvantaged and marginalized. This leads to a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence. Let no one
be deceived: There is no global peace without global justice!
c) Young people must learn at home and in school that property, limited though it may be, carries with it an obligation, and
that its uses should at the same time serve the common good. Only thus can a just economic order be built up.
d) If the plight of the poorest billions of humans on this planet, particularly women and children, is to be improved, the
world economy must be structured more justly. Individual good deeds, and assistance projects, indispensable though they be,
are insufficient. The participation of all states and the authority of international organizations are needed to build just
A solution which can be supported by all sides must be sought for the debt crisis and the poverty of the dissolving second
world, and even more the third world. Of course conflicts of interest are unavoidable. In the developed countries, a distinction
must be made between necessary and limitless consumption, between socially beneficial and non-beneficial uses of property,
between justified and unjustified uses of natural resources, and between a profit-only and a socially beneficial and ecologically
oriented market economy. Even the developing nations must search their national consciences.
Wherever those ruling threaten to repress those ruled, wherever institutions threaten persons, and wherever might oppresses
right, we are obligated to resist-whenever possible non-violently.
e) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:
* We must utilize economic and political power for service to humanity instead of misusing it in ruthless battles for domination.
We must develop a spirit of compassion with those who suffer, with special care for the children, the aged, the poor, the
disabled, the refugees, and the lonely.
* We must cultivate mutual respect and consideration, so as to reach a reasonable balance of interests, instead of thinking
only of unlimited power and unavoidable competitive struggles.
* We must value a sense of moderation and modesty instead of an unquenchable greed for money, prestige, and consumption. In
greed humans lose their "souls," their freedom, their composure, their inner peace, and thus that which makes them human.
3. Commitment to a Culture of Tolerance and a Life of Truthfulness.
Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives of honesty and truthfulness. Nevertheless, all
over the world we find endless lies and deceit, swindling and hypocrisy, ideology and demagoguery:
* Politicians and business people who use lies as a means to success;
* Mass media which spread ideological propaganda instead of accurate reporting, misinformation instead of information, cynical
commercial interest instead of loyalty to the truth;
* Scientists and researchers who give themselves over to morally questionable ideological or political programs or to economic
interest groups, or who justify research which violates fundamental ethical values;
* Representatives of religions who dismiss other religions as of little value and who preach fanaticism and intolerance instead
of respect and understanding.
a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not lie! Or in positive
terms: Speak and act truthfully! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No woman or man, no institution,
no state or church or religious community has the right to speak lies to other humans.
b) This is especially true:
* for those who work in the mass media, to whom we entrust the freedom to report for the sake of truth and to whom we thus
grant the office of guardian. They do not stand above morality but have the obligation to respect human dignity, human rights,
and fundamental values. They are duty-bound to objectivity, fairness, and the preservation of human dignity. They have no
right to intrude into individuals' private spheres, to manipulate public opinion, or to distort reality;
* for artists, writers, and scientists, to whom we entrust artistic and academic freedom. They are not exempt from general
ethical standards and must serve the truth;
* for the leaders of countries, politicians, and political parties, to whom we entrust our own freedoms. When they lie in
the faces of their people, when they manipulate the truth, or when they are guilty of venality or ruthlessness in domestic
or foreign affairs, they forsake their credibility and deserve to lose their offices and their voters. Conversely, public
opinion should support those politicians who dare to speak the truth to the people at all times;
* finally, for representatives of religion. When they stir up prejudice, hatred, and enmity towards those of different belief,
or even incite or legitimize religious wars, they deserve the condemnation of humankind and the loss of their adherents.
Let no one be deceived: There is no global justice without truthfulness and humaneness!
c) Young people must learn at home and in school to think, speak, and act truthfully. They have a right to information and
education to be able to make the decisions that will form their lives. Without an ethical formation they will hardly be able
to distinguish the important from the unimportant. In the daily flood of information, ethical standards will help them discern
when opinions are portrayed as facts, interests veiled, tendencies exaggerated, and facts twisted.
d) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:
* We must not confuse freedom with arbitrariness or pluralism with indifference to truth.
* We must cultivate truthfulness in all our relationships instead of dishonesty, dissembling, and opportunism.
* We must constantly seek truth and incorruptible sincerity instead of spreading ideological or partisan half-truths.
* We must courageously serve the truth and we must remain constant and trustworthy, instead of yielding to opportunistic accommodation
4. Commitment to a Culture of Equal Rights and Partnership Between Men and Women
Numberless men and women of all regions and religions strive to live their lives in a spirit of partnership and responsible
action in the areas of love, sexuality, and family. Nevertheless, all over the world there are condemnable forms of patriarchy,
domination of one sex over the other, exploitation of women, sexual misuse of children, and forced prostitution. Too frequently,
social inequities force women and even children into prostitution as a means of survival - particularly in less developed
a) In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not commit sexual immorality!
Or in positive terms: Respect and love one another! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: No
one has the right to degrade others to mere sex objects, to lead them into or hold them in sexual dependency.
b) We condemn sexual exploitation and sexual discrimination as one of the worst forms of human degradation. We have the duty
to resist wherever the domination of one sex over the other is preached -- even in the name of religious conviction; wherever
sexual exploitation is tolerated, wherever prostitution is fostered or children are misused. Let no one be deceived: There
is no authentic humaneness without a living together in partnership!
c) Young people must learn at home and in school that sexuality is not a negative, destructive, or exploitative force, but
creative and affirmative. Sexuality as a life-affirming shaper of community can only be effective when partners accept the
responsibilities of caring for one another's happiness.
d) The relationship between women and men should be characterized not by patronizing behavior or exploitation, but by love,
partnership, and trustworthiness. Human fulfillment is not identical with sexual pleasure. Sexuality should express and reinforce
a loving relationship lived by equal partners.
Some religious traditions know the ideal of a voluntary renunciation of the full use of sexuality. Voluntary renunciation
also can be an expression of identity and meaningful fulfillment.
e) The social institution of marriage, despite its cultural and religious variety, is characterized by love, loyalty, and
permanence. It aims at and should guarantee security and mutual support to husband, wife, and child. It should secure the
rights of all family members.
All lands and cultures should develop economic and social relationships which will enable marriage and family life worthy
of human beings, especially for older people. Children have a right of access to education. Parents should not exploit children,
nor children parents. Their relationships should reflect mutual respect, appreciation, and concern.
f) To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following:
* We need mutual respect, partnership, and understanding, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are
expressions of violence and engender counter-violence.
* We need mutual concern, tolerance, readiness for reconciliation, and love, instead of any form of possessive lust or
Only what has already been experienced in personal and familial relationships can be practiced on the level of nations and
IV. A Transformation of Consciousness!
Historical experience demonstrates the following: Earth cannot be changed for the better unless we achieve a transformation
in the consciousness of individuals and in public life. The possibilities for transformation have already been glimpsed in
areas such as war and peace, economy, and ecology, where in recent decades fundamental changes have taken place. This transformation
must also be achieved in the area of ethics and values!
Every individual has intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, and each also has an inescapable responsibility for what she
or he does and does not do. All our decisions and deeds, even our omissions and failures, have consequences.
Keeping this sense of responsibility alive, deepening it and passing it on to future generations, is the special task of religions.
We are realistic about what we have achieved in this consensus, and so we urge that the following be observed:
1. A universal consensus on many disputed ethical questions (from bio- and sexual ethics through mass media and scientific
ethics to economic and political ethics) will be difficult to attain. Nevertheless, even for many controversial questions,
suitable solutions should be attainable in the spirit of the fundamental principles we have jointly developed here.
2. In many areas of life a new consciousness of ethical responsibility has already arisen. Therefore we would be pleased if
as many professions as possible, such as those of physicians, scientists, business people, journalists, and politicians, would
develop up-to-date codes of ethics which would provide specific guidelines for the vexing questions of these particular professions.
3. Above all, we urge the various communities of faith to formulate their very specific ethics: What does each faith tradition
have to say, for example, about the meaning of life and death, the enduring of suffering and the forgiveness of guilt, about
selfless sacrifice and the necessity of renunciation, about compassion and joy. These will deepen, and make more specific,
the already discernible global ethic.
In conclusion, we appeal to all the inhabitants of this planet. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness
of individuals is changed. We pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousness, for the awakening
of our spiritual powers though reflection, meditation, prayer, or positive thinking, for a conversion of the heart. Together
we can move mountains! Without a willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change
in our situation! Therefore we commit ourselves to a common global ethic, to better mutual understanding, as well as to socially
beneficial, peace-fostering, and Earth-friendly ways of life.
We invite all men and women, whether religious or not, to do the same.