Remarks by the
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
“Responsibility of Religions and Governments for Peace between Autonomy and Complementarity”
New York – 5 December 2017
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:
Today we gather to discuss the role of religion in the pursuit of peace. Surely, there is no greater purpose behind our various faiths than this effort: that all men (and women!) should live together as brothers and sisters, free from the scourge of war.
I wish to congratulate the Federal Foreign Office of Germany for undertaking this critical task. It is noteworthy when governments recognize the complementary role that actors without official portfolios can play. We will hear from a panel that will describe the concept of complementarity as well as one that will provide historical perspective through discussing the peace process in Colombia.
I am particularly pleased that alumni of our own UNAOC Fellowship Program are joining us today to talk about the importance of youth leadership in building interfaith understanding in their own communities. This program, supported generously by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, features an intercultural exchange of young professionals from Europe and North America on one side with young professionals from North Africa and the Middle East on the other. We can learn much from intercultural exchanges and that includes complementary approaches to interfaith dialogue led by civil society.
When we speak of complementarity in peace processes, we should understand that dialogue is not the same as mediation or negotiation. Dialogue is usually a part of those processes but dialogue is defined as the exchange of ideas. The word comes from the ancient Greek word describing a conversation between two or more people. The act of conversation is essential to understanding. It is through that conversation that we learn about the other, learn to understand the other and learn to respect the other.
Religious leaders play a special role in our communities and can play a special role in building dialogue between groups, between neighborhoods, between neighbors. In many communities, religious leaders are the first adults our children get to know outside our own families. They are the teachers and the counselors in many communities.
It is through these critical roles that they provide the moral guidance that can translate into greater respect for one another, greater respect for the concept coexistence, and a lasting commitment to peace.
I wish you all success in today’s discussions.