Statement by Turkey at the Launch of the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites

Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu 12.09.2019
Mr. Secretary General,
Thank you for convening today’s meeting and thank you for your timely call on the UN Alliance of Civilizations to develop a Plan of Action to support the work of the UN in ensuring the safety of religious sites.
I also would like to thank High Representative Mr. Moratinos and his team for their dedicated efforts to prepare this plan. High Representative has assumed an inclusive and transparent approach in developing the Plan.
Mr. Secretary General,
Indeed, there has been an alarming rise in the number of attacks against religious sites in the recent years. These are deliberate acts of provocation and the aim is to spread fear and divide our societies.
We cannot merely condemn the attacks and then continue business as usual. This is not an option. We must take action to defend one of our fundamental freedoms: the freedom of religion and belief.
We should tackle the root causes that lead individuals and groups to commit terrorist attacks against people of other faiths in their places of worship.
This will allow us build trust, foster dialogue and mutual understanding to prevent religious intolerance and discrimination.
Such an effort requires the full participation and sustained engagement of all stakeholders, including governments, religious leaders, civil society and private sector.
We should also step up our efforts to reduce the vulnerability of religious sites to all kinds of violence.
This could be in the form of developing relations between relevant stakeholders to ensure an early warning system or it could be in the form of establishing physical security systems where necessary.
We are glad to see that the Plan of Action encompasses all these important elements. Its recommendations are action-oriented and they are laid out in a systematic manner.
I once again commend H.E. Moratinos and his team for their successful work.
Mr. Secretary General,
Historically, Turkey has always been at the forefront of efforts to bridge different cultures, faiths and civilizations.
As a co-sponsor of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Turkey has lent its strong political and financial support to this initiative since its inception.
We have also played our part in the adoption of Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 which established the Istanbul Process mechanism. The Process aims to contribute to the efforts to combat various forms of extremism, hatred and racial discrimination.
More recently, Turkey has led the negotiation process of the resolution entitled “Combating terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion or belief” in April this year. Adopted by consensus, the resolution calls for strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue on the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels.
Before I conclude, I would like to reiterate our appreciation to you for launching this important Plan of Action. Turkey fully supports the Plan and is ready to work with all Member States in its successful implementation.
Thank you.