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GA President Says Culture of Peace Path to Dialogue & Human Solidarity

RIMINI, ITALY , Aug 24 2012 (IPS) - Speaking at an international forum here, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the General Assembly, said it was unfortunate that in some parts of the world there is growing intolerance, xenophobia, and incitement to hatred.

“In some societies, culture is perceived as a source of division, instead of a path to dialogue and human solidarity”, he told the forum in the historic city of Rimini, located on the Adriatic Sea, and described as one of the famous seaside resorts in Europe.

The subject of the forum: “International Politics and Religious Freedom”. The forum was the 33rd in a series of discussions over the years.

Every year thousands of people from different parts of the world with different religions, ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, professions come together in Rimini. And every August the coastal city becomes a place for friendship.

For 33 years, the president added, the forum has proven that diversity can create synergies and provide strength that is needed to overcome common challenges and establish harmony amongst all.

Still, he said, in some regions minorities are subject to atrocities or mass killings, because they belong to different religions. Holy books are burned, religious symbols are defamed.

“This is not a society we want to live in,” said Al-Nasser. “We should protect the diversity in our societies. We have entered a world in which these issues will continue to unsettle us, unless we realize the benefits of diversity and share the fruits of globalization in a just and harmonious way between all members of the human family”.

He said the United Nations was built on the premise that dialogue is the best path to peace. And that cultural diversity, freedom of thought, and knowing each other enhances respect and tolerance.

Hence, the UN recognized that international community consists of different faiths and religions.

The General Assembly, the U.N.’s highest policy-making body, has always expressed its special concern over hatred and religious intolerance, and it has taken several initiatives to fight these scourges, the president said.

The General Assembly, through its Human Rights Council, has endlessly introduced Human Rights resolutions prohibiting discrimination on grounds of religion, race, xenophobia and of related intolerance.

Multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multi-lingual and multi-cultural societies are to be viewed as a source of wealth for all humanity.

Unlike last year’s session of the General Assembly, where the theme of religion took a more prominent role because of the growing number of religion-focused initiatives, the surprise during this year’s Third Committee session was the Human Rights representative’s decision not to table the polarizing “defamation of religion” resolution.

“We should also recognize the wisdom of Member States – when realizing this need – they established the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, given the important contribution of dialogue for peace and development”.

The Alliance was established at a time when grave tensions rooted in cultural differences gripped the world. “This new institution emerged as a new hope for the international community to stem the tide of intolerance and offer a perspective of hope and fraternity.”

It is encouraging that today, the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations has reached more than 107 Member States, in addition to other partners. “I am hopeful that, in the future, the membership of the Group will be universal”.

The Alliance of Civilizations has contributed, through its various activities, to a clear shift “in the way we look at diversity”.

Following the Madrid, Istanbul and Rio Forums, the fourth forum of the Alliance was held last December in Doha, Qatar.

It focused on the interconnection between diversity and development. It is obvious that without harmony among different groups in a society, it is not possible to reach prosperity and sustainable economic development.

“Now, we are looking forward to the next forum that will be hosted by Austria next year in Vienna, which I am confident that will substantially contribute to the issues we are discussing”. Al-Nasser added.

He said the Alliance has a role in a world, “where different religions need not divide us, but unite us and serve as a bridge for a more peaceful and tolerant human family”.

Before his presidency of the General Assembly ends in mid September, Al-Nasser said he plans to organize some other events to further promote these issues.

First, before the adoption of the General Assembly resolution on mediation on 13 September, “I will be screening highlights of a documentary entitled “Beyond Right and Wrong”.

The theme of this film is forgiveness. The documentary presents three conflicts from three separate regions of the globe: the 1984 Brighton Hotel Bombing in Northern Ireland, the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and Rwandan Genocide.

Forgiveness makes mediation possible and without mediation, there is no progress, he noted.

Then, on 14 September, a special forum will be convened at the General Assembly on culture of peace. “We will build on the annual General Assembly resolutions on this matter and discuss thoroughly with key speakers how to establish a genuine culture of peace”.

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