GA President praises international week for interfaith harmony

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) — The president of the UN General Assembly (GA), Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said here Tuesday that World Interfaith Harmony Week can help provide “firm building blocks” for a culture of peace.

Al-Nasser’s statement came as he addressed the assembly during a special event to mark the final day of World Interfaith Harmony Week. The event was titled “Common ground for the common good.”

“During World Interfaith Harmony Week, we not only affirm our own traditions, but reflect on the qualities and values of the traditions of others,” Al-Nasser said. “It is this spirit of mutual respect and cooperation that will afford us firm building blocks for the establishment of the culture of peace at all levels. ”

The week for interfaith harmony, which began on Feb. 1, is a time set by the UN for inter-religious dialogue and promotion of understanding between faiths. The idea for the week was proposed to the General Assembly by Jordan in September 2010 and officially adopted by the assembly the following month.

Al-Nasser said that he commends the assembly for adopting the resolution on World Interfaith Harmony Week.

“In doing so, member states underscored the centrality of interfaith cooperation as an important condition for building a culture of peace,” he said. “Billions of people around the world identify themselves as believers.”

He added that in a world that is becoming both more interconnected and divided, it has become more important than ever to draw on religion’s potential to increase peace and stability in the world.

Religious organizations, in many cases, have done concrete humanitarian work on the ground before international development cooperation even existed, Al-Nasser said.

“For this reason, it is important that the United Nations acknowledges the social and moral significance of faith,” he said.

Al-Nasser said he is in favor of including representatives from different faiths in conversations at the UN.

“Here in this General Assembly Hall, where nations gather at a common table of dialogue, issues of faith have rarely been discussed in any systematic way,” said Al-Nasser. “Recently, however there has been a greater trend toward dialogue with religious and interfaith organizations at the United Nations. I believe this dialogue should be encouraged.”

On March 22, the assembly will hold an interactive thematic debate titled “Fostering cross-cultural understanding for building peaceful and inclusive societies.” Al-Nasser said this event will help explore the “valuable role” of faith-based groups in achieving the UN’s goals.

“During the meeting we will also discuss the role of religions and religious organizations in enhancing dialogue and understanding, with participation from different parts of the world,” he noted.