Statement by USG Miguel Angel Moratinos
the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
at the 48th Session of the OIC Council of Ministers
“Partnering for Unity, Justice and Development”
Islamabad, 22-23 March, 2022
It gives me great honor to be addressing the 48th session of the Councils of Foreign Ministers of the OIC. I wish to thank the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and our hosts, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for inviting me.
At the outset, I wish to join the distinguished speakers who preceded me in congratulating OIC member states for the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution proclaiming 15 March an International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
The choice of date of March 15th is not a coincidence either.
It was this day 3 years ago when the world witnessed the barbaric and heinous massacre of 51 Muslim worshippers in 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019.
The macabre attack was an ominous warning of the surge in xenophobia, racism, ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting individuals or entire communities on account of their religion or belief including Muslims, Jews and Christians.
The heinous crime was perpetuated by a single individual harboring far-right extremist ideologies and anti-Muslim prejudices.
It would be stating the obvious to say the all forms of discrimination and racism degrade people’s dignity and our common humanity.
Such vile acts diminish us all as a society. They are affronts to the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states the promotion and protection of human rights including freedom of religion and belief .
Even long before the Christchurch attacks, disturbing stereotypes and tropes about Muslims and Islam were quite prevalent particularly following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The horrific attacks reinforced existing suspicion of and prejudice against Muslims.
The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations was created 17 years ago to address among other issues the fall- out in relations between Muslim countries and the West after the 9/11 attacks and the chain of terrorist attacks that followed in London, Madrid and Bali. As the UN Secretary-General political soft power tool to address the root causes of polarization and radicalization and mobilize concerted actions towards a paradigm of mutual respect among diverse cultures and religions.
I was, therefore, very pleased that the UN General Assembly Resolution on the International Day to Combat Islamophobia referred in its preamble to my Press Statement “A call for mutual respect” which my office issued in reaction to the heated debate in Europe about the freedom of expression and the right to insult religions.
After the Christchurch attacks, the UN Secretary-General tasked my office to develop a UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. The Plan was launched in September 2019.
So I was glad that the same resolution referred to the protection of places of worship in OP2 calling for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and for the diversity of religions and beliefs, and strongly deplores all acts of violence against persons on the basis of their religion or belief and such acts directed against their places of worship, as well as all attacks on and in religious places, sites and shrines that are in violation of international law.
These aforementioned core values are the heart and soul of the work of UNAOC which lives true to its motto : Many Cultures ..One Humanity.
I would like to quote Surat Al-Tawbah of the Holy Quran: And if anyone of the non-believers “seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he can hear the words of God. Then escort him where he can be secure.”
What a meaningful practical example of tolerance. Islam , a religion of tolerance called on Muslims , centuries ago to protect and extend a helping hand and provide shelter to the vulnerable.
Concluding, as we are few days away from the Holy month of Ramadan, let us draw from the many Ramadan lessons of humility and compassion, of dignity , justice , unity and equality, of mutual respect and understanding.
Let us recognize, above all, that we are indeed one humanity.
You have my commitment to work with you to stem-out Muslim bigotry and discrimination based on religion or belief.