New York – In the lead up to the upcoming global communications campaign on the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites – developed by the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) at the request of the UN Secretary-General – UNAOC organized a panel discussion to explore the power of media to foster mutual respect and understanding and to enhance awareness about the protection of religious sites.
Organized in the context of the 2020 Interfaith Harmony Week in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the UN, the event took place on Friday 14 February at the UN Headquarters, with remarks by the High Representative for UNAOC, H.E. Mr. Miguel Moratinos, and the Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, H.E. Ms. Sima Sami Bahous.
“Terrorist attacks and hatred seek to divide us,” said Mr. Moratinos. “A global communications campaign to foster unity and solidarity will be very powerful to bring us together,” he added.
With the global communications campaign, UNAOC will work to create personal, emotional connections with religious sites to celebrate their universality, and underscore the role of individuals in protecting all religious sites, regardless of religions or beliefs.
“Terrorist attacks and hatred seek to divide us. A global communications campaign to foster unity and solidarity will be very powerful to bring us together.”
– H.E. Mr. Miguel Moratinos, UNAOC High Representative
The subsequent panel discussion examined the role that global youth and the global faith community can play to create connections to religious sites that can help celebrate their universality, underscore the role of individuals in protecting sacred sites, and contribute to fostering dialogue, mutual respect, and understanding.
“For millennials to embrace an idea, for them to respect the religious space, they need to be able to put their minds and hearts around it,” said Mr. Jerry Pattengale, the Interim President and CEO of Religion News Foundation and Religion News Service. “You can change someone’s preconceived notions with just one good story.” To better foster understanding, Pattengale advocated for more education on other religions in history classes and the newsroom.
Ms. Zulaika Nanfuka of the Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum, who came specially from Uganda to participate in the event, stressed the importance of identifying and recruiting the right messengers. “You need people whom young people are going to trust,” she said.
Ms. Eloïne Barry, the CEO of African Media Agency, spoke about the importance of storytelling. “You can’t communicate effectively without a good story,” she said. “There are many great examples and stories out there of religions co-existing peacefully.”
Ms. Bani Dougal, Principal Representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the UN, stressed the universality of religious sites as the common heritage of humankind’ and ‘the oneness of our common heritage’.
UNAOC will launch the global communications campaign of the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious sites in late March 2020.