UNGA adopts Pak-sponsored resolution stressing interreligious dialogue

U.N. logo pattern a press conference background at the United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday passed a resolution, by consensus, on promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue to advance a culture of peace and non-violence based on education, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation in the world.

Sponsored by Pakistan and the Philippines, the 43-power text reaffirmed the solemn commitment of all states to fulfil their obligations to promote universal respect for and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

First introduced in 2004 as a response to the fatal theory of the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ that followed the 9/11 attacks, the resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination; and underlines the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.

In its preambular section, the resolution—for the first time—acknowledged the role of China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which includes CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor), in strengthening the people-to-people bond and promoting mutual understanding and cooperation.

Presenting the text to the 193-member assembly, Pakistan’ s acting ambassador to the UN, Nabeel Munir, said that it was an outcome of strong cooperation among member states.  He also recognised UNESCO’s crucial role in promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

Conflicts fuelled by suspicion and mistrust had caused human suffering and economic loss, as well as obstructed friendly interaction and socio-economic cooperation among the world’s various regions, Munir said. The international community had also witnessed an increasing level of xenophobia, he said, calling on everyone to engage in a genuine dialogue to foster peaceful and harmonious coexistence within and among societies.

Much of the growing mistrust could be traced to the growing gap in understanding and lack of tolerance among the various religions and civilisations, the Pakistani representative said, adding that extremist and terrorist groups exploit this gap to propagate their own toxic agenda.

“It is, therefore, imperative for all of us to strengthen mechanisms and actions for the promotion of dialogue and understanding among all religions and civilisations, with a view to restoring harmony and strengthening cooperation for peace and development,” Munir added.

Under the terms of the resolution, the assembly encouraged member states to consider, as and where appropriate, initiatives that identify areas for practical action in all sectors and levels of society for the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.

States were invited to promote reconciliation to help ensure durable peace and sustained development, including through reconciliatory measures and acts of service.

The resolution welcomed the efforts by the media to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, while emphasising that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, and reaffirming that the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may, therefore, be subject to certain restrictions.