EU Explanation of Position – United Nations 3rd Committee: Interfaith Harmony Week

In News by Noora Chahine

European Union @ The UN

Mr. Chairman,

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union on the resolution A/65/L. 5 entitled “Interfaith Harmony Week” that was just adopted. The European Union would like to extend its thanks to the delegation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the constructive spirit in which it has led the consultation process on this resolution, as well as for its readiness to incorporate in the resolution a number of suggestions put forward by the EU.

The EU welcomes any call for dialogue, peace, tolerance and mutual understanding among people and nations. It is in this spirit that the EU has joined consensus on the resolution, based on the following understanding of some fundamental issues raised in the resolution.

Mr. Chairman,

It is an established fact that religions, beliefs and faiths cannot be considered actors under international law. Therefore, the EU has joined consensus in the understanding that “dialogue among religions, faiths and beliefs” in PP2 and OP1, refers to dialogue among individuals with different religions, faiths and beliefs.

As in other areas, any obligation of states with regard to religious affairs does not exist vis-à-vis any religion, faith or belief as such, but solely towards individuals or groups of individuals, and in full respect for both the individual’s freedom of religion or belief and the independence of religious institutions in matters of belief. The EU is therefore of the view that pp. 4 and op. 3 cannot be read as giving States a mandate to influence the manner in which individuals relate to their faith or beliefs, or to impose their views on the substance or manner of any interreligious or intra-religious discourse. Furthermore, some EU Member states have regulations and policies whereby the state is strictly separated from any religion. Therefore, we do not feel compelled to intervene in religious discourse in places of worship. However, the European Union fully subscribes to the wish expressed in the resolution for respect and understanding between followers of all religions, faiths and beliefs.

Mr. Chairman,

While acknowledging the importance of interreligious dialogue the EU wishes to state that both interreligious and intra-religious dialogue are additional and complementary components of intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace. Religion or faith may constitute part of the multiple identities of individuals, but it is our understanding that by solely addressing one of the sources of identity, the resolution does not wish to imply a lesser importance of the others. In this respect, the EU would like to highlight the role of UNESCO in promoting all aspects of intercultural dialogue, as well as of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in promoting understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, the EU wishes to state its understanding that the call for interfaith harmony expressed in the resolution, and for “dialogue among religions, faiths and beliefs” in PP2 and OP1 is not limited to specific, for instance, monotheistic religions or beliefs, but is in fact meant to include all followers of any religion, faith or belief in a universal and inclusive manner.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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