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Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Symposium on “The Role of Interfaith Dialogue in Peacebuilding and Women Empowerment”, delivered by Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships, UN-Women, in New York, today, 12 February:

Peace, dignity and respect for others are core values common to all of the world’s great religions.  The United Nations is proud to uphold these values, including through our work to build peace and empower women.  I commend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Peace Islands Institute for organizing today’s symposium on these important goals.  It is a fitting way to commemorate World Interfaith Harmony Week.


People place extraordinary trust in their faith leaders, who have a far-reaching ability to help achieve lasting peace and promote the status of women.  As long as entrenched hatreds and gender bias remain, conflicts will simmer and women will suffer.  Only when we achieve a fundamental change in mind-sets can we realize true progress.


Faith-based organizations can challenge prejudices and support the full participation of women in political, economic and social life by refuting attitudes that perpetuate inequality.


Women are often central to the life of faith-based organizations, and they possess enormous potential to promote conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  There are numerous inspiring examples, including Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, who brought together Muslim and Christian women in an effective peace movement in Liberia.


Whether working with their own faith communities or engaging in interfaith dialogue, women are often among the first to engage in peacebuilding efforts.


At the same time, we must acknowledge that most faith-based organizations are dominated by men.  More needs to be done to increase the presence of women in positions of authority within faith-based organizations and to amplify their voices in peacebuilding and interfaith dialogue.  This will enable women to discuss and determine their religious and cultural values and to promote practices that respect human dignity.


The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission has recognized the value of interfaith groups in advancing democracy.  Through programmes on the ground, partnerships with faith-based organizations and initiatives such as the Alliance of Civilizations, the United Nations advances interfaith dialogue to achieve peace, human rights and sustainable development.  We welcome all people of faith in this affirmation of our common humanity.


In this spirit, I wish you great success in your discussions today.