REMARKS ON ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN PEACEBUILDING IN THE MIDDLE EAST
New York, 18 July 2017
I want to thank the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, for organizing this important panel discussion.
I also commend the Government of Spain – and particularly Foreign Minister Alfonso María Dastis – as well as the many religious leaders gathered here for your initiative.
The Holy Land has a special place in the hearts of billions of people around the world. The faiths that you represent are branches of the same Abrahamic tree – and have done so much to contribute and enrich our world and global civilization.
I am tremendously inspired and uplifted by your efforts to come together around shared values and a shared commitment to building peace.
As you know better than anyone else, we live in a world where long-standing conflicts continue and new ones are emerging. Some parts of the Middle East have been the site of so much bloodshed and torment.
With every passing day, frustration grows, hope diminishes, and the perspective of a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems more distant.
As I have continuously stressed, the two-state solution is the only path to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis realize their national and historic aspirations and live in peace, security and dignity. The expansion of illegal settlements, or the violence or the incitement undermine this prospect.
In my opinion, there is no plan B.
Conflicts in the Middle East continue to feed extremism and radicalisation around the world.
Indeed, we are witnessing a spiralling wave of discrimination and stereotyping of “the other” in many places.
Religion is being distorted to increase differences.
Together we must counter such narratives.
Sustainable peace requires not only political will from all sides, but also the collective efforts of the international community, civil society and fundamentally, religious leaders.
We need to expand the space for dialogue to encompass local and regional leaders and other actors who have a voice and influence within their respective communities.
This is why I am so greatly encouraged by the Religious Peace Initiative, which was launched in Alicante last November.
As Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders, you have the opportunity to teach the shared humanistic values of tolerance, understanding, compassion and peace.
These are the core values embraced by all three monotheistic faiths represented here today, and they can be the catalysts for peace.
I applaud your efforts towards promoting the peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.
Your initiative points the way to a more hopeful future – a future of tolerance and mutual understanding as a pathway to just and lasting peace.
I thank you very much.