UN Secretary-General: “When people are attacked because of their religion or beliefs, all of society is diminished”
By Janet Ekstract
UNITED NATIONS (TURKISH JOURNAL) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a major plan of action to protect religious sites known as Plan Of Action To Safeguard Religious Sites during an informal briefing to Member States at the UN this week.
Guterres explained that this new initiative follows the June 2019 initiative on The Strategy And Plan Of Action On Hate Speech and that both initiatives are designed to accomplish the same thing.
The UN chief explained that both plans dovetail one another in terms of their end goal which is to combat hate, hate speech and hate crimes. Both projects aim to coordinate efforts throughout the UN system to define the root causes of hate speech and create a more effective response to it.
The secretary-general said the tragic terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand prompted these calls for a more widespread response in tackling hate in all its forms. To that end, a global plan to make religious sites safe havens for worshippers was proposed.
UN Secretary-General Guterres said: “Houses of worship around the world must be safe havens for reflection around the world for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror.” Guterres also emphasized that in times of armed conflict that “buildings dedicated to religion are specifically protected by international humanitarian law.”
To that end, the secretary-general has tasked the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Moratinos to develop this action plan for religious sites entitled “In Unity And Solidarity For Safe And Peaceful Worship.” The UN chief explained that Moratinos will collaborate with a wide range of groups on this plan including governments, NGOs, local and international communities, youth, faith-based organizations, civil society, religious leaders, traditional and social media as well as the private sector.
Guterres explained that the huge spike in anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate crimes, in addition to attacks against Christians, churches and other religious groups have skyrocketed in the last several years.
The plan provides solid recommendations to support Member States in their efforts to combat the scourge of religious hatred and religious hate crimes. The plan includes support for making religious sites safe as well as allowing worshippers to pray in peace at places of worship and ensuring the values of compassion and tolerance are more fully developed globally.
Secretary-General Guterres explained that this plan is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and based on seven guiding principles that the UN has outlined below:
Respect for all peoples: Responsibility, Diversity, Dialogue, Solidarity, Standing Together, Staying Together. These seven principles embody building bridges of understanding based on mutual collaboration, accepting and respecting individual differences between human beings, finding more effective ways to engage in meaningful dialogue that allows for enhanced personal understanding as well as learning more effective methods of providing support – especially in times of trouble and grief.
The principles also include standing in solidarity in the face of divisiveness and remaining united in a sustained and reinforced response to attacks on religious sites.
The secretary-general emphasized that under the International Criminal Court (ICC), “intentional attacks against such buildings is a war crime.”
As the secretary-general concluded: “Religious sites are powerful symbols of our collective consciousness.” Guterres added: “Taken together, both plans provide important and mutually reinforcing new tools to combat intolerance and to promote peaceful co-existence.”
With multicultural cooperation of Turkey and Spain, the Alliance of Civilizations was formed during Kofi Annan term in 2005 to fight against all forms of intolerance and to build mutual respect among people of different cultural and religious identities.
UNAOC Group of Friends today includes 147 Members of which are 120 UN Member States, 1 non-member state, and 26 international organizations.