The UN General Assembly convened its first-ever high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding on October 4th The General Assembly President, Srgjan Kerim called for a sustained international effort to address the issue through exchanges of information. “We must begin a global dialogue, using public campaigns and all forms of media, to spread greater awareness of the issues,” he declared.
The active involvement of the media, private sector, civil society, faith groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be crucial to this effort, he said. At theend of the meeting the President urged participants to “go forth and strive to build a new culture of international relations based on human rights and security, mutual cooperation and respect for international law.”
Also addressing the event, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need to promote the idea that differences among peoples, far from being a threat, are what enrich humanity as a whole.
“It is time to explain that different religions, belief systems and cultural backgrounds are essential to the richness of the human experience,” Mr. Ban said. He also pointed out that in today’s era of global travel and instant satellite transmissions, people everywhere are encountering “less of the familiar, and more of ‘the other,’” leading to increased tensions among cultures and religions.
At the end of October (21-23rd ) the Sant’Egidio Community organized a high level interreligious dialogue in Naples which was opened by Pope Benedict XVI. At the end of the meeting the participants issued a statement, which echoed the Pope’s opening remarks, “Never can evil and violence be justified by invoking the name of God.”
Entitled “The Name of God is Peace,” the official statement by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, and other religious leaders-- condemned violence as “an illness that pollutes every thing.” “From Naples we can say, stronger than before, that anyone who uses the name of God to hate the other, to practice violence, or to wage war, is cursing the name of God.”
The Naples statement called for dialogue between peoples of different cultures and religious traditions, saying that “a world without dialogue is a world without hope, where people are fated to fear each other…Dialogue weakens no-one’s identity, and it encourages everyone to see the best in the other. Nothing is lost with dialogue, everything is possible through dialogue.”