– During a panel intervention at the 3rdannual dialogue in commemoration of the 2018 World Interfaith Harmony Week held on 9 February at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG)- organized by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to UN Geneva on 9 February at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue appealed to decision-makers and religious leaders to “find appropriate ways to denounce and bring an end to practices that hinder equal citizenship rights in their societies.”
Jazairy said the proliferation of political crises and conflicts in the Arab region and the West alike affect all religious groups through deepening animosities which could “beget intolerance or even hatred.” He warned against the ‘instrumentalization‘ of violence and the unscrupulous misuse of religion as a pretext for exclusion, discrimination and violence.
“The conclusion we can draw is that violent extremism targets people indiscriminately regardless of religious affiliation or beliefs. No one is immune from the vicious and heinous ideologies of violent extremist groups regardless of geographical location. Populism itself can metastasise into exclusion and violence. It is for these reasons that joint action is needed – more than ever – to address the root-causes of intolerance,” stated Jazairy.
The best way to achieve peace and address intolerance is to “harness the power of all religions, creeds and value-systems to promote and enhance equal citizenship rights. In other words, equal citizenship rights is another name for peace” added Jazairy.
Ambassador Jazairy praised the initiative of King Abdullah II of Jordan to spread messages of interfaith harmony through UN General Assembly Resolution No. 65.5 to celebrate an Interfaith Harmony Week at the beginning of February every year.
Inspired by this initiative, Jazairy announced that the Geneva Centre will organize a World Conference on the theme of “Religions, Creeds and/or Other Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights” at UNOG in June 2018. The Geneva Centre’s Executive Director said the World Conference and the World Interfaith Harmony Week are key building blocks to “lay the foundation for social cohesion and the promotion of inclusive societies.”
These initiatives will give greater substance and “prominence to identifying an all-encompassing model of citizenship rights that responds to citizens’ aspiration to a sense of belonging which will foster their unity in diversity” Jazairy emphasized.
“Let us join forces to counter discrimination and address the root-causes of intolerance worldwide. Where there is a will, there is a way,” concluded Jazairy.
The debate gathered several high-level speakers from around the world including the Permanent Representatives to UN Geneva – Ambassador Saja Majali of Jordan, Sri Lankan Ambassador Ravinatha P. Aryasinha, Ambassador Kok Jwee Foo of Singapore, Azerbaijan Ambassador Vaqif Sadiqov, the Deputy Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Aissata Kane and the Permanent Observers of the Holy See Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic and Ambassador Marie-Thérèse Pictet-Althann of the Sovereign Order of Malta .
Speakers included President of the American University Institute for Public Policy and former Ambassador of Ecuador to UN Geneva Ambassador Luis Gallegos and the Director of the United Nations Library at Geneva Francesco Pisano. The discussion panel was moderated by the Programme Director of UNITAR Alex Mejia.
In addition to the joint co-sponsorship of UNITAR and the Permanent Mission of Jordan, the debate was supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations Christian Association and the Permanent Observer Missions of the Holy See and the Sovereign Order of Malta.