H.E. MR. NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE
UNITED NATIONS ALLIANCE OF CIVILIZATIONS
AT THE WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK
Implementing the Transformative Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals,
3 FEBRUARY 2016, CONFERENCE ROOM 3
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am privileged as High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to address this special audience today as we celebrate the 2016 Interfaith Harmony Week. We know that this is more than a celebration: it is a tribute to the shared values of coexistence, brotherhood and human understanding.
I am sure that everyone feels the positive energy in this room thanks to the musical performance of the Peace Meditation at the United Nations led by the Group Sri Chinmoy. Their reach to our hearts proves that music fuels positivity in each one of us. It holds the power to bring people together beyond any differences.
I sincerely wish to thank the Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN for their dedicated commitment to interfaith dialogue and for continuously seeking partnerships with my office in our shared mission to enhance the voices of moderation and understanding. I must say that it is a real pleasure to collaborate for this celebration, in part because of the increased role played by the Alliance in the areas of interfaith and intercultural dialogue within the United Nations Family.
I would like to recall my on-going commitment to the cause of Interfaith Harmony in my capacity as President of the General Assembly in 2012. We organized an exceptional event at the time with the collaboration of the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the UN, under the leadership of His Majesty King Abdullah II. His vision to resist the forces of division through the moral imperatives conveyed by all religions proves necessary today more than ever.
The theme chosen for this year’s celebration – “Interfaith Harmony: Implementing the Transformative Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals,” falls in the context of the international community’s achievements during 2015 and onwards. We welcomed three pillars for development: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on finance; the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 transformative goals; and the COP-21, which will ensure a response to the challenge of climate change.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While we are experiencing progress on many fronts, we still face daunting challenges, such as the violence and false narratives of extremist groups who seek to divide us along cultural, religious and ethnic lines. We have cyber-attacks led by Daesh. They target vulnerable youth worldwide for recruitment, radicalization and enlistment in their violent ideologies. Youth are the most vulnerable target group because they are susceptible to simplistic narratives and false propaganda.
The current world situation underscores the urgency to evaluate, understand and tackle these multiple crisis as a common inter-faith community. But we also have to consider some of the causes. There are increasing inequalities and poor governance. Extremist voices use these shortcomings to their advantage. That is the reason why I strongly believe in the important role played by interfaith harmony when it comes to uniting people.
There was a vision when the World Interfaith Harmony Week was established. We need to go back to this vision that promotes tolerance, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, a culture of peace and combating the blight of violent extremism.
As a UN veteran and the High Representative for UNAOC, I have outlined three main areas of action for Religious Leaders to undertake so that we can promote harmony among communities.
First, there is no other way but to capitalize on the vital role played by religious leaders:
We look to religious leaders and religious-based organizations because they act in accordance with the humanistic values of their religious beliefs and with the UN Charter in mind. They are key partners and part of the United Nations family because they support the principles and ideals of the United Nations. At the United Nations, we early recognized the power of your outreach and action. There is no doubt about the contributions religious leaders make in the fields of mediation, humanitarian actions, community building and in addressing extremism.
I am proud to announce the efforts of UNAOC to create an Advisory Council of Religious and Political Leaders. UNAOC is the primary office within the United Nations to address interfaith dialogue and harmony. This council will convene periodically in order to provide guidance to the UNAOC and to its mission to promote dialogue between cultures, civilizations and faiths.
Finally, the Secretary-General, who unveiled his “Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism,” reaffirmed this trust in religious leaders and communities in January 2016. This plan of action gives an amazing opportunity for religious leaders to act as powerful agents of change, particularly when it comes to promoting interfaith dialogue, reinforcing regional networks for peace and for providing guidance to youth, women, and civil society organizations.
Second, we need to rethink the Power of Interfaith Harmony in accordance with the rising cultural and religious tensions worldwide.
Five years have passed since the first celebration of Interfaith Harmony Week. We can all see these years as years of achievement. But they were also years of growing narratives of hate, xenophobia, intolerance, racism and exclusion. These destructive narratives undermine international peace and security. They tend to destroy hope and sabotage the basic human rights of development, justice and dignity.
When I welcomed the Interfaith Harmony Week at the General Assembly four years ago, we had hope and trust. Hope and trust in our concerted ability to secure the goals and targets that are now encompassed in the Sustainable Development Agenda. I reaffirm this commitment today, but would like to stress our duty and responsibility to secure interfaith harmony in line with each and every goal of the 2030 Agenda. Our focus on “Interfaith Harmony as a key to Implementing the SDGs,” in our first panel today, will be the opportunity to highlight the connection between peace, development and interfaith understanding.
Third, we need to go from “Commitment to Result”
The 2030 agenda for sustainable development is an occasion to reinforce a stronger sense of commitment between religious leaders, NGOs and the United Nations. I am sure that by finding common grounds to implement sustainable development goals, we can move towards a greater sense of commitment and action for all and by all. Our second panel, “The Future of Cooperation between Religious Communities and the UN” will address the powerful contributions made by religious communities within the UN family and vice-versa.
In conclusion, I would like to note that the Interfaith Harmony Week has reached new levels recognition. Since the last week of January, interfaith harmony has been celebrated in every corner of the world from Canada to Algeria and from Jordan to India. Millions have shared their willingness, online, to see religions live in peace side by side, with the hashtag #interfaithharmonyweek.
These growing celebrations represent a unique opportunity for each one of us to advocate a culture of peace through the unifying power of faith, irrespective of organizational affiliation. Let’s capitalize on this opportunity and make of this day a great day for interfaith dialogue, understanding and partnership.
Last but not least, I am delighted to welcome you in April, to the UNAOC 7 th Global Forum, in Baku, Azerbaijan. As Interfaith Harmony goes beyond a festival of celebration you will continue to bring your blessing so we can realize Unity and Inclusion.