UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has highlighted at the United Nations Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initiative for an international campaign against defamation of religions, aimed at developing, through dialogue, respect for each other’s religious beliefs, symbols and personalities.
“Pakistan has always actively engaged in efforts to promote civilised dialogue in order to build a more peaceful world,” Pakistan Ambassador to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi told the Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC), a body mandated to promote harmony among nations.
More than 1,000 scholars took part in the Global Forum to share knowledge and explore innovative ways of promoting inclusive approaches to conflict prevention as a pathway for sustaining peace.
Ambassador Lodhi said that the Pakistani leader had outlined at a recent conference in Islamabad his initiative for a campaign against defamation of religions to counter incitement to hatred being witnessed in some parts of the world.
“Hate narratives are spreading in several parts of the world; Islamophobia is on the rise and diversity is being seen not as a source of enrichment but as a threat, and politics of fear seem to be replacing politics of hope,” she said.
In the face of such troubling trends, the Pakistani envoy said the role of bridge builders and peacemakers becomes even more pivotal.
She also stressed the importance of countering violence and hatred that is being witnessed in some parts of the western world by the negative depiction of Muslims.
“We believe that all cultures and civilizations contribute to the common heritage of mankind, and sincere and open dialogue helps to promote international cooperation and with that, global peace and security.”
Noting that the collective commitment to the ideals of peaceful coexistence was under stress, Ambassador Lodhi said that the task of peace-building and sustaining peace could only be accomplished by collectively building a common vision of a peaceful world, and adopting an inclusive approach to promote better understanding.
“Universal values of peace, tolerance, egalitarianism and respect for our common humanity, are shared by all religions and cultures,” the Pakistani envoy said.
“Our common heritage and values should enable us to draw strength from our diversity rather than allow it to be used as justification to accentuate differences.
“For this, it is necessary to stress genuine and constructive dialogue across cultures and religions.”
Ambassador Lodhi said that the Alliance of Civilisations has great potential to engage faith leaders to join our collective endeavour to promote tolerance and understanding.
As part of its commitment to promoting religious harmony, Ambassador Lodhi cited the resolution that it sponsors with the Philippines in the UN General Assembly each year that calls for interreligious and intercultural dialogue as well as cooperation in the world.
“Pakistan, for its part, will continue to support initiatives that promote and strengthen inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding so that we can build a more peaceful and just world,” she added.
In his opening speech, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the role of UNAOC in building “more peaceful, just and resilient societies,” a key objective of the 2030 UN Development Agenda.
He recalled last month’s horrendous attack against Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh, a city in the US state of Pennsylvania, who were gunned down while praying, stating: “It was an unspeakable act – yet I was struck by the voices that emerged. The local Muslim community, for example, raised tens of thousands of dollars to help the victims.”
For her part, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa flagged that the world is facing a complex global juncture marked by multiple crises, including poverty, inequality, climate change, forced migration, conflicts, terrorism and intolerance, and called for a strong collective action and global agreements.
“To build those agreements, the dialogue is the most powerful means,” she maintained on migration, reminding the Forum that in December, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which is the first international cooperation framework encompassing a comprehensive and balanced vision, will be adopted.
The Alliance’s High Representative, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser also spoke at the opening ceremony of the two-day event, along with Alliance co-sponsors Deputy Prime Minister of Spain Carmen Calvo and Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Al-Nasser highlighted that despite notable achievements in key areas of work – such as in preventing hate speech, supporting intercultural and interfaith dialogue, empowering youth and strengthening peace education – inciters of hate take pride in driving a wedge between different ethnic groups and civilisations.