CHICAGO, SEPT. 2 -- Representatives of more than 125 of the world's religions today signed "The Declaration of a Global Ethic," nine pages that attempt to define a common set of values for people of all nations, races and faiths.

"The world is in agony," wrought by wars, environmental destruction, poverty and inequality, the document begins, "but this agony need not be."

It finds the beginnings of a solution in simple adherence to the Golden Rule -- "We must treat others as we wish others to treat us" -- a sentiment common to many faiths but expressed in a variety of forms.

Pronounced by its signers a historic document on par with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the paper was issued today at The Parliament of the World's Religions, an international gathering that last occurred 100 years ago, also in Chicago. The nine-day meeting has united religions of the East and West, Old World and New Age, from Lutherans to Zoroastrians to Hare Krishnas.

"It is certainly the first time in the history of humankind that a body of this importance tries to lay down principles for understanding, principles for behavior which . . . can also be supported by nonbelievers," said Swiss theologian Hans Kung.

Kung drafted and revised version after version of the document until the religious leaders reached a consensus, he said at a news conference here.

"To be quite frank, I was always rather skeptical that this whole thing would be achieved," Kung said. But, he added, "there was no objection to any important point, and that was a happy surprise."

Kung, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Research at the University of Tubingen in Germany, also is known for his dissidence in the Roman Catholic Church, differing with his own faith on such issues as sexual mores and the roles of women and laity. More than a decade ago, the Vatican revoked his right to teach as a Catholic theologian.

In simple language, the new declaration advocates nonviolent solutions to conflict, respect for nature and equality between the sexes. It condemns leaders and members of religions that "incite aggression, fanaticism, hate and xenophobia. . . . We are filled with disgust," it says.

Alluding to the conflict raging in the former Yugoslavia and what has come to be called "ethnic cleansing," the document asserts that no group has the right to kill, torture or to "cleanse . . . a 'foreign' minority which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs."

The document does not mention the word "God." Kung explained that the writers intended not to exclude any religions that do not recognize one supreme being.

The drafters also avoided taking a stand on such potentially divisive issues as abortion and euthanasia.

Although religious leaders of many faiths praised the document today, some participants in the Parliament emphasized the need for action.

"It took us 100 years {since the last Parliament} and we are still talking," said Amrit Kaur, a Sikh from Chantilly, Va. "Everybody disagrees when it comes to action."