Remarks at the Side Event “Countering Terrorism and Other Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief: Fostering Tolerance and Inclusivity"

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 24.06.2019
Distinguished colleagues,

I would like to welcome you all to our debate on “Fostering tolerance and inclusivity for countering terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief”.

This increasingly relevant topic deserves a thorough discussion taking into account various perspectives.

I would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us today and look forward to your active participation. I would also like to thank the co-organizers of this event Pakistan, Holy See and the UNOCT.

Distinguished participants,

We have been witnessing an upsurge of intolerance, xenophobia, and various forms of racism, such as Islamophobia, Christianophobia and anti-Semitism around the world.

We are all alarmed by the related violent extremism, which aims to challenge our fundamental values.

2019 has shown a particular increase in the terrorist attacks based on religion or belief. While we were all shaken by the horrific terrorist attacks against two mosques in New Zealand, the heinous attacks against Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka came to the fore.

Attacks against synagogues have been also on the rise, particularly in the United States. A Turkish mosque in Connecticut was the target of an attack as recent as during the holy month of Ramadan.

All these examples indicate that we need to step up our efforts to prevent and combat racism and violent extremism.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, which is becoming more and more mainstream in several societies. Unfortunately, narrow-minded populist agendas are the only ones that benefit from this path.

Ignoring the growing menace and the racist climate is a major threat to global peace and likely to lead to new attacks.

Condemning the attacks and then continuing business as usual can no longer be an option. At the level of governments, we need to adopt comprehensive and systematic measures that address the growing threat.

At the same time, we should diversify the means and tools that we use.

lencies, dear colleagues,

By now, we all have seen that national policies alone are not enough to counter the threat of intolerance and violent extremism. Governments, civil society and the international community must work together.

We have established tools to tackle these challenges regionally and internationally.

I would like to emphasize the important role of the Alliance of Civilizations in countering extremism by promoting dialogue and understanding between communities.

The Alliance has established itself as the key multilateral and multi-stakeholder platform in that sense.

In this context, we welcome and support the call of the Secretary General to the Alliance to develop an Action Plan to prevent attacks against and guarantee the sanctity of religious sites.

Another valuable tool is the “Istanbul Process” initiative. It is the unique follow-up mechanism of regular international meetings to implement the relevant Human Rights Council resolution (16/18).

The Process aims to contribute to the efforts to combat various forms of extremism, hatred and racial discrimination. It also aims to raise global awareness on the dangers of the growing manifestations of Islamophobia.

Considering the current level of religious intolerance and discrimination and especially with Islamophobia on the rise, there is a timely need for further progress on the Istanbul Process.

I also would like to underline the recent UN General Assembly resolutions regarding the acts of violence based on religion or belief.
As a global response to the Christchurch attack, the resolution on “Combating terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief” was adopted by consensus on 2 April 2019.

We are proud to have led the negotiation process of this important resolution. It calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels.

One month after that, the resolution declaring 22nd August as “International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence based on Religion or Belief” was also adopted by consensus.

This is a testimony to the continuing relevance and significance of this topic for the entire membership.

At the same time, these two resolutions are concrete examples of solidarity and commitment of the international community to combat intolerance, hatred and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.

Distinguished participants,

We also need to take a closer look at the root causes of these phenomena. Children are not born with hatred. It is our responsibility to make sure that our children are taught not to hate but to respect the other.

All relevant actors in our societies, including teachers, community and religious leaders have an important role to educate the young generation and serve as role models.

Hatred, racism and violent extremism flourish when young people lack meaningful prospects. Especially young men and women are drawn into radical rhetoric and ideologies when their social, economic and psychological needs are not fulfilled.

In order to build resilient and peaceful societies, governments should work on increasing pluralism, inclusiveness and creating equal opportunities for all.

To achieve this, we need to ensure that women play a full and active role in this process. To marginalize half of the population is to ignore their needs and undermine the sustainability of our efforts against extremism.

The media also have a significant responsibility to promote tolerance and inclusiveness rather than discrimination, exclusion and incitement of hostility.

Distinguished colleagues,

I would also like to underline the importance of upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as the rule of law in our efforts.

Strategies that are not fully grounded in human rights norms may feed the resentments that often motivate extremist views.

There should be a proper balance between freedom of expression and prohibition of incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. States should put in place necessary legislation to ensure this delicate balance.

Dear participants,

No country is immune from the dangers of intolerance, xenophobia, racism and extremism, especially in the face of increasing use of communication technologies.

It is our joint responsibility to generate a culture of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding. I hope that this event will be one small contribution towards that end.

Thank you.