Amidst a global call by Secretary-General António Guterres to “reaffirm the sanctity” of religious sites and keep worshippers safe, the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) on Thursday launched a new plan of action to “counter hate and violence around the globe”.
“Religious sites are powerful symbols of our collective consciousness”, said the UN chief. “When people are attacked because of their religion or beliefs, all of society is diminished”.
Mr. Guterres underscored that houses of worship must be “safe havens for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror” and all people “must be allowed to observe and practice their faiths in peace”.
In the aftermath of horrific attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; three Catholic churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday; and an increasing number of hate-based attacks targeting religious sites worldwide, the UNAOC was asked by the UN chief, to develop Thursday’s Plan of Action.
According to the Secretary-General, this is complemented by the Plan of Action on Hate Speech, which coordinates efforts across the UN system to address the root causes of incendiary language and respond effectively.
“Taken together, both plans provide important and mutually reinforcing new tools to combat intolerance and promote peaceful coexistence”, the UN chief said.
He pointed out that in situations of armed conflict, “buildings dedicated to religion are specifically protected by international humanitarian law” and intentional attacks against them are war crimes.
“The best way to overcome the threat of violence based on unacceptable forms of manipulation of religion and belief is by uniting our voices for good, countering messages of hate with messages of peace, embracing diversity as a richness not a threat, investing in social cohesion, and protecting human rights”, underscored Mr. Guterres.
He maintained that “together we can help prevent attacks against religious sites and do our part to secure the safety of the faithful to worship in peace”.
Through this Plan of Action, the UN is “taking an important step to advance that critical goal and address what has emerged as one of the leading global challenges of our era”, he asserted.
“In these troubled times, let us keep working together to uphold the values that bind us as a single human family”, concluded the Secretary-General.