High Representative’s Remarks at the
UNGA77 Side Event: ‘Pathways to Respect’
Organized by the U.S. Department of State – Office of International Religious Freedom
21 September 2022, New York
Your Excellency Amb Rashad Hussain,
US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom,
I warmly thank Ambassador Rashad Hussain for inviting me to participate in this event. I am also very pleased to meet him in person for the first time since he assumed his new role which is crucial now more than ever considering the overall global context.
The freedom of religion or belief, the freedom of expression , the right to peaceful assembly and right to freedom of association are interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing rights rooted in the articles 18,19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Upholding these rights are crucial now more than ever if we want to win our battle against all forms of intolerance, disrespect and discrimination based on religion or beliefs.
Sadly, around the world we have seen increasing numbers of attacks against individuals and groups targeted simply because of their religion or belief. Jews have been murdered in synagogues, Muslims gunned down in mosques and Christians killed at prayer in Churches. Religious sites have been attacked in across the globe. No country is immune from those acts of terror and extreme violence.
All major world religions espouse mutual respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in a spirit of shared humanity. I wish to underline here that mutual respect is a more comprehensive term than tolerance. Mutual respect is a conscious decision that individuals take to respect “other” people who have a different religion or no religion, a different color of skin, a different language and a different gender. It is not dictated by law or any higher power.
Tolerance and compassion are virtues rooted in all religions across the faith spectrum.
When mutual respect is rooted in the collective conscience of any society, religious tolerance and freedom of religion and safe worship will be only a natural result.
The United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites: In Unity and Solidarity for Safe and Peaceful Worship developed by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations at the request of the Secretary-General after the Christchurch attacks, strongly underscores the necessity of building mutual respect through dialogue, education and awareness campaigns targeting all segments of the society.
As such , we must resist and reject those who falsely and maliciously invoke religion to build misconceptions, fuel division and spread fear and hatred . We must especially stand up to hate speech, misogyny and discrimination based on religion or belief including antisemitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia .and other forms of religious intolerance. All manifestations of discrimination are an affront to democratic values, human rights laws and to the core values that the UN Charter upholds. When left unaddressed, they pose a threat to the social cohesion and the stability of our communities.
As you are aware I have been designated by the Secretary-General as the UN focal point to monitor antisemitism and enhance a system-wide response and I am very glad to see Amb Deborah Lipstadt here today. I remain committed to stand up against antisemitism in all its manifestations.
It is my belief that when religious intolerance against specific religion or faith exists in a society, there will be most likely other forms of discrimination and racist ideologies.
As members of the human family, we must nurture mutual understanding through dialogue to achieve mutual respect. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other, to respect differences and to promote living together in peace.
I thank you again Amb Hussain and I look forward to collaborating with you.