REMARKS OF H.E. MR. MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Luncheon on the Occasion of the 90th Birthday of
Rabbi Arthur Schneier
Delegates Dining Room
New York, 12 March 2020 12:15 – 14:45 PM
Welcome, all of you to this moving and special event.
It gives me a great honor to be hosting this memorable occasion in which we pay tribute to Rabbi Arthur Schneier and celebrate his anniversary and his achievements in the service of humanity.
I also want to express a warm welcome to Mrs. Elizabeth Nordmann Schneier, Rabbi Schneier’s spouse and long time companion throughout his journey, and all his family. I am certain that it has been a tough path, but at the same time a rewarding one.
Thank you Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres for carving out time to join us in this celebration. Your presence symbolizes the strong link between the UN and the work and engagement of Rabbi Schneier, and we all know the mutual respect and friendship you share with him.
This anniversary of Rabbi Schneier, holocaust survivor, coincides with the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp and the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the United Nations. Rabbi Schneier is part of the history of both.
And last but not least, I welcome all the distinguished guests, permanent representatives and faith leaders filling out this room. I see a room filled with love. You were all invited because each and every one of you mean a lot to Rabbi Schneier and have come across him personally in one way or the other. He wanted you to share with him this special moment of celebration.
Before we start the program of this event, let me have a deep thought to those that are suffering and fighting against this terrible crisis of Coronavirus. All of them will be on our thoughts and prayers, and with the leadership of the international community, I am sure we will defeat this new dramatic challenge.
My dear Rabbi Schneier,
As the High representative for the United nations Alliance of Civilizations, it is my privilege to be the master of ceremony of this event.
We have known each other for 16 years.
I have seen first hand your integrity and unwavering commitment to the mission and goals of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations since its inception 15 years ago.
As an eminent member of the High-Level Group that was formed by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 and as a UNAOC ambassador, you had it in your heart to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue, religious pluralism, building bridges of understanding and nurturing a culture of respect of the other regardless of their race, beliefs or gender. Those universal values, which are at the core of UNAOC’s mandate, were perfectly aligned with your own beliefs and convictions.
As a holocaust survivor living under Nazi occupation in Austria then Hungary, you experienced the best and worst of humankind. You encountered the evil forces who destroyed lives and the heroes who saved lives. Yet, you endured those horrors and never lost your faith. You defeated the forces of anger, hatred and exclusion. As an eight-year-old boy you witnessed, with horror, fascists burn down your synagogue in Kristallnacht, Austria.
That day, of the 10th of November 1938, you vowed to dedicate your life to promoting religious freedom and advocating the protection of religious sites. A vow that you fulfilled by putting your generosity, love and compassion in the service of humanity, thus setting a role model for wise spiritual leadership at its best. One that inspired past generations and continues to mobilize present and future generations to promote the universal values of freedom of religion, human rights and peaceful living together and combat the all forms of discrimination and bigotry including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christinophobia. Convivencia, my dear Rabbi Schneier, is what you stand for. And Convivencia is what our planet needs.
Thank you for all your personal and political commitment and for being able to solve so many challenging crises.