H.E. Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos
The High-Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
II Baku Summit of World Religious Leaders
14-15 November 2019
Your Virtue, Sheikh-ul-Islam Allah-Shukur Pashazade, Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Board & Sec Gen of Baku International Center of Interfaith & Inter-civilizations Center,
Your Excellency Mr. Ali Ahmedov, Chairman of the Organizational Committee of the Baku Summit of World Religious Leaders & Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Allow me first to express my heartfelt commiserations to Sheikh-ul-Islam Allah-Shukur Pashazade on the occasion of his birthday . I also commend His Virtue’s valuable work and unwavering commitment in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue over the past 40 years.
Your Virtue, it is great pleasure and a privilege to be here with you on this occasion and I do apologize for not being able to attend the opening session due to an important commitment in New York in the morning.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Almost a decade ago in 2010, the first World Summit of Religious Leaders was held here in Baku. A city whose mosaic is a colorful mix of diverse cultures, religious and languages enriching the fabric of the society in Azerbaijan. This is no coincidence. The vision of the political leadership of Azerbaijan has nurtured this social cohesion through a consistent strategy that encouraged different stakeholders, especially faith-actors and religious leaders to take up their responsibilities in promoting intercultural, interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue . This forward-thinking approach also brings us here today.
Placing the emphasis in this summit on the role of religious leaders in preventing and countering all forms of discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia , anti Semitism and Christianophobia is very timely given the current global context and the complexity of the nature of the identity-based conflicts. At the same time, it is a reminder to all of us of the vital and indispensable role religious leaders and faith-based organizations play in shaping our world. But why is that? the answer is simple, Faith is and will always be central to hope and resilience. In conflict situations where identities come to play, there is no doubt that that religious institutions play a significant role. Religious institutions are often the only functioning institution in a fragile or pre-conflict situation. They are present before, during and after conflict. They provide early warning for signs of conflict in communities. Working with and through religious and other institutions to provide ‘pre-emptive’ reconciliation frameworks may and can stop conflict becoming violent or returning to violence – it can set it on a different path. Their work is done by young and old, by women and men, by rich and poor. It seeks a peoples’ peace and mobilizes their resilience.
For that reason, we see how religion is being hijacked by radical groups and twisted by intolerant ideologies to justify incitement to violence conducive to acts of terrorism, discrimination and xenophobia.This vicious circle continues to plague our world despite our earnest global efforts.
These ideologies seek to divide humanity based on false versions and interpretations of religious, cultural and social values. No one can deny the short and long-term damaging results of these factors on international peace and security as well as development.
Driving a wedge between us as humans is an affront to the Charter of the founding fathers of the United Nations which refers to “We the Peoples” of the United Nations who are “determined to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as neighbors”. Those universal values are humanistic values inherent in all faiths. Hence we , at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations we derive our motto from these values “Many Cultures…One Humanity”. We recognize that if we truly believe and work for fulfilling this motto, we would succeed in transitioning from tolerance as a noble human virtue to acceptance and respect of the other as a noble human act.
Ironically, as we are witnessing a chaotic global scene transpiring before our eyes. We see a return of hate demonstrated in rising anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and violent attacks on Christians.
Attacks on the places of worship this year shook us all to the core. These attacks are some of the most blatant examples of lack of respect for each other and for our common humanity. For this reason, at the request of the UN Secretary General my office developed an all-UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. Faith actors and religious leaders will play an essential role in the implementation of this plan. The Plan which was launched by the Secretary General on 12 September was conceived as an action-oriented framework for action with suggested recommendations to support Member States and relevant stake-holders in their efforts to prevent possible attacks against religious sites and to be better prepared to safeguard religious sites and worshippers.
I count on your support and valuable advise to take this plan forward to the implementation phase.
The truth is – today more than ever – Cultural, religious ,ethnic and gender diversity is the reality that informs human life. Diversity means embracing pluralism in nations and cities, tribes and villages, in ethnicities and identities, in beliefs, faiths and traditions.
There is a good story to tell though. The joint document of His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr. Ahmed El Tayeb on Human Fraternity is a shining light at the end of the dark tunnel, a true model of interfaith. The document is an addition to the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration which re-inforces the notion of contractual citizenship in Muslim societies as embodied in the Madina Charter. A charter that was reached without war, violence, or coercion. I hope that that spirit could be revived amongst us all. We need that spirit more than ever.
Last but not least, allow me to reiterate that words like dialogue, tolerance, diversity and respect mean little if not supported by concrete broad range of actions under an international umbrella of sincere cooperation from state and non-state actors. After all, peace, justice and human solidarity that we all aspire for, are what bind us together as we are all part of one humanity despite our many diverse cultures.
In that spirit, I wish His Virtue Sheikh-ul-Islam Allah-Shukur Pashazade a happy 70th birthday filled and with many years to come in the service of humanity.
I thank you.