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November 15, 2008     Saturday     Ziqa'ad 16, 1429

UN rejects religion’s use to justify killings

By Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14: A high-level meeting of the United Nations General 
Assembly has rejected the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent 
people and terrorist acts and voiced concern that serious instances of 
intolerance, discrimination and harassment persist between people of different 
faiths and cultures.

In a consensus declaration read out by the UN Secretary General, Ban

Ki-moon, at the conclusion of the two-day “Culture of Peace” gathering here on 
Thursday, participants called for mutual understanding through dialogue, and 
respect for human rights among proponents of various faiths, cultures and 
civilisations. The special session was convened at the initiative of King 
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

“Concerned about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, hatred 
expressions, and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths, 
participating states underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, 
understanding and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all 
their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs,” the declaration said.

“Participating states affirmed their rejection of the use of religion to 
justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and 
coercion, which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, 
justice and equality,” it added. Mr Ban said the challenge now was to move 
beyond “powerful, positive words” to “dialogue that delivers”. Heads of state, 
ambassadors and senior officials from some 70 countries addressed the meeting, 
including Saudi King Abdullah, US President George Bush, Pakistan President 
Asif Ali Zardari, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Israeli President Shimon 
Peres, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Jordan’s King Abdullah.

In the declaration, the General Assembly reiterated its call for “promoting a 
culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue, and supporting 
the initiatives of religious leaders, civil society, and states seeking to 
entrench the culture of peace, understanding, tolerance, and respect for human 
rights among the proponents of various faiths, cultures, and civilisations”.

The participating states expressed their commitment to strengthening existing 
mechanisms within the United Nations for “promoting tolerance and human rights, 
preserving the institution of the family, protecting the environment, spreading 
education, eradicating poverty, and fighting drug abuse, crime and terrorism, 
noting the positive role of religions, beliefs and moral humanitarian 
principles in tackling these challenges”.

Mr Ban voiced deep gratitude to the Saudi leader. “King Abdullah’s initiative 
has come at a time when the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and 
civilisations has never been greater. It has brought together people who might 
not otherwise have a chance to interact. Along with other initiatives, it will 
contribute to building a more harmonious world. “The challenge now is to go 
beyond the powerful, positive words we have heard these past two days. I pledge 
my full support to this effort. It may take time to see results, but I am 
convinced that this meeting was an important step forward.”

On Wednesday, at the opening session, General Assembly President Miguel 
D’Escoto told participants that the world was facing its most difficult period 
since the founding of the UN.

He urged global leaders to use their “moral strength” to find solutions to some 
of the greatest problems plaguing the planet, including poverty, hunger and 
climate change.

The DAWN Media Group

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