ALISHER VOHIDOV ( Uzbekistan ) said that today’s realities demonstrated the growing relevance of efforts to strengthen dialogue. Uzbekistan was a State with 136 ethnic groups, and their fruitful interaction was seen as part of the national heritage. Uzbekistan, in ancient times, had been seen as a bridge linking the East and West by ways of the Silk Road, and was known as an important crossroads where varying civilizations and cultures met. Uzbekistan maintained holy sites of many religions, including Islam, Buddhist culture, Judaism and Zoroastrian culture in Samarkand and Bukhara.
He said that the equal rights of all society’s groups were protected by national policy. Several intercultural centres promoted peace and dialogue between religions and ethnic groups, and encouraged the various groups to maintain their language, arts and crafts. Uzbekistan had recently translated the Holy Koran into Braille, becoming only the third country on earth to have achieved that noble goal. The growing trend towards intolerance around the world, however, could set precedence for extremist undertakings. The world was in need of a joint and coordinated response to promote mutual understanding and cooperation for the cause of peace.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that cultural diversity was a valuable asset of human society as an engine for creativity and progress. Globalization presented the opportunity for diverse groups to learn from one another, but also exposed the possibility for conflicts between them. Dialogue among equals, motivated by difference, could drive efforts to promote peace and development. The Chinese Government had always upheld those concepts.
He said that the evolution of Chinese civilization had proved that religion and culture could play a positive role in harmonious development. All major religions, indigenous and imported, coexisted peacefully in China and contributed to Chinese culture. If religions and cultures avoided self-righteousness and subjective prejudices and practiced tolerance and understanding, confrontation could be avoided. China supported the participation of its numerous religious institutions in international exchange, and hosted the third Asia-Europe Meeting Interfaith Dialogue in Nanjing this year.
To work towards the peaceful coexistence of different religions and cultures, he said, the approach of “harmonious but different” should be adopted; education and public awareness on issues of tolerance must be strengthened; and the media should be encouraged to disseminate the value of peace common to all cultures and religions in promoting harmony and mutual respect. Hopefully, the various initiatives that had emerged on the issue would complement each other and make use of the United Nations to create a bridge of communication and cooperation for the promotion of the common development of human society.
KIRSTI LINTONEN (Finland), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said that religion had again become both an important source of identity and a political force. Because religion was increasingly forming the basis for political action, religious discourse was fast becoming an important arena for negotiating all types of social issues. As a result, public conflicts over religious themes often reflected a reality outside the realm of religion. Yet some of the challenges of building multicultural and multireligious societies were not due to differences among religions. Rather, they reflected social problems that gave rise to small groups seeking to build an ideological foundation and gain support for their political cause. Those extreme views should not be allowed to overshadow those of the majority and the mainstream. Religious communities could play an important role in defusing conflicts, but misuse of religious identity for divisive ethnic and political purposes must be countered.
In Europe, she said, it was not the business of Governments to master religious affairs. Nor was it the task of the European Union to “manage” Islam in Europe. Governments should instead create conditions propitious for the growth of Muslim thinking, which would address the realties of Western democratic and egalitarian societies. European Muslims should be empowered and anchored into the European reality. Touching on Finland’s religious history, she emphasized recent interreligious cooperation there between Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities, adding that Finnish society would be enriched by new immigrants from other cultures and religions. While the multitude of local, regional and international initiatives for intercultural and interreligious understanding was encouraging, coordination was imperative. She stressed the need for concrete measures from the Alliance of Civilizations and implementation of its action plan.
MOHAMMED AL-ALLAF ( Jordan) said that Islam was increasingly seen in an adversarial around the world. Political trends coalescing around that view were desperately unrealistic. Jordan sought a dialogue that was rooted in authenticity, wishing to transmit, through that exchange, a message of coexistence.
He said his country believed in the importance of reason, and sought to rehabilitate Islam from its wrongful connection to terrorism and violence, by showing the religion’s real face. That included practical agreed measures, such as identifying who was authorized to issue Islamic fatwas. Jordan believed the United Nations was the ideal forum for discussing intercultural and interreligious issues, as it sought to bridge differences. Such talks were an opportunity to exchange views and make it possible to establish practical measures. “Let us work together to build an edifice of hope and confidence in the future,” he concluded.
HENRY MAC-DONALD ( Suriname) said that Surinamese society was multi-ethnic, multicultural, multilinguistic and multireligious. The acceptance of and appreciation by each individual group of the different cultural expressions of the others were extraordinary. All the ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds and traditions were coexisting and cooperating peacefully with each other, as reflected in the political representation within the administration. The Constitution guaranteed that “no one shall be discriminated against on the grounds of birth, sex, race, language, religion, education, political opinion, economic position or any other status, and that subsequently, everyone has the right to freedom of religion and philosophy of life”. The Government respected those rights in practice, and sought to protect them at all levels, and did not tolerate any form of their abuse, either by governmental or private actors.
Since 1998, he said, the Interreligious Council in Suriname had been the venue for consultation and dialogue between the main religions in the country. The council was composed of principal representatives of the religions, who met twice each month to discuss planned ecumenical activities and their positions on Government policies. That institution had been instrumental in bringing solutions to major national political impasses. It cooperated with its Caribbean counterparts to discuss regional and global issues. Suriname continued to support and promote dialogue among civilizations, and remained convinced that a culture of peace and understanding could be significantly enhanced through that kind of dialogue.
TAKAHIRO SHINYO ( Japan) said the present high-level dialogue was an opportunity to advance the goals of the 2005 “Bali Declaration” and General Assembly resolution 61/221, which addressed issues of intolerance and discrimination. Interreligious and intercultural dialogue contributed to mutual understanding, in that it was a means of resolving existing conflicts, as well as helping to prevent new ones. Education, which could convey to people that there were many different religions and cultures in the world, was another invaluable way to enhance mutual understanding.
He said that the activities of the private sector, local authorities, and non-governmental organizations were crucial for the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue. For that reason, Member States should pay careful attention to the messages delivered by religious groups during the Informal Meeting of Leaders in the Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace, as well as the present dialogue.
Describing the steps Japan had taken, he said the country had made a positive commitment to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) “Dialogue among Civilizations”. In 2005, Japan had hosted the World Civilization Forum in Tokyo, and in May 2007, it had co-chaired the Counter-Terrorism Meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Singapore. In July, Japan had become a member of the Alliance of Civilizations “Group of Friends”, and in May, the country had hosted the Fifth Asian-Europe Meeting Conference on Counter-Terrorism. Japan had also hosted the Seminar for Inter-Civilizational Dialogue with the Islamic World five times, dispatched three exchange and dialogue missions to the Middle East, and invited members of Islamic Boarding Schools in Indonesia to visit Japan.
He said that human security, which had much in common with the purpose of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, could only be achieved when people were free from fear and scarcity, and were able to live in dignity. Therefore “such dialogue can and should be advanced through the pursuit of human security”.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said that her country, as a multi-ethnic, multilingual and multicultural nation, assigned great significance to culture, diversity, intercultural peaceful understanding and intercultural dialogue, in the advancement of societies. Cultural diversity was an asset and a fundamental value of mankind, which should encourage the formulation of effective solutions to address national, regional and global challenges.
She said that, at the national level, States should promote and protect their own cultural identity and diversity and, at the same time, encourage social respect of cultural diversity at the international level. Legislative and political actions were recommended, in order to guarantee and promote respect for cultural rights, promote and preserve local and world heritage, and support artistic expression. Great importance should also be given to legal and political measures to protect the rights of national ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups.
Dialogue should be promoted not only between governmental or political actors, continued Ms. Blum. The promotion of messages for understanding and for granting value to cultural diversity was also the responsibility of social, economic, academic and artistic leaders, as they represented sectors of high impact within societies. Religion was a dimension of cultural diversity. The mass media could also contribute to the promotion of understanding and peaceful coexistence. Colombia considered that a cooperative approach should exist among nations, based on respect for nations’ identities and for existing international obligations. Such an approach should also grant value to cultural diversity and to the particularities of human groups as a collective asset.
SIRODJIDIN ASLOV ( Tajikistan) said that, nine years ago, when it was decided to proclaim the International Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, it had been assumed that cultural and religious diversity was a blessing. Regrettably, today there was a lack of tolerance and ever-increasing alienation. Once cultural and religious variety was recognized as an advantage, dialogue would become stable and long term. Such dialogue would take place only if it was recognized that the world was a place of diversity and shared common values.
In Tajikistan, he said, a culture of tolerance and respect had been shaped over thousands of years, marked by interaction between cultures and religions. Such values had been enshrined in the Constitution. Sixty-six “confessions” were represented in the country, where they freely observed their traditions. Now was the time for united efforts to address common challenges. Mutually advantageous international cooperation was becoming imperative, in order to diminish and prevent such new threats as terrorism, extremism, illicit drug trafficking and organized transnational crime. The current tendency towards nationalism, extremism and military conflict demanded more intercultural and interfaith dialogue at regional and international levels. Searching for new ways of cooperation should be a priority. Enhanced cooperation within such organizations as the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Treaty on Collective Security would be welcome.
BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) said that Pakistan and the Philippines, as organizers of the high-level dialogue, had “crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s” when they focused it on cooperation between religions and cultures as well as on best practices. Building bridges of understanding and cooperation would definitely help support peace. Portraying others as the devil had to be addressed, with a view to guaranteeing transparency, objectivity and non-politicization. Serious dialogue should not be one-sided or selective between this or that religion or culture.
He said that attention should be given to the fact that a lack of understanding was the result of man’s misunderstanding of religions and cultures. The twentieth century had been the most violent in history, despite notable scientific progress. Two World Wars had claimed millions of lives. There had also been colonial injustices and the first use of nuclear weapons. At the start of the twenty-first century, radical forms of human violence were evident in several places, as if decision makers had taken an intellectual decision to revert to conflict. Best practices and a revolution against intellectual rigidity were needed. Syria supported proposals for a new unit within the United Nations on religious and cultural dialogue, which took into account the important views of the Alliance of Civilizations High-Level Group’s report, including the views regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory.
HABIB MANSOUR ( Tunisia) said his country was pleased and proud to take part in this meeting, and thanked the delegations of Pakistan and the Philippines for their efforts in organizing it. Dialogue was the best way to counter extremism, he said, adding that his delegation attached great importance to the values of tolerance, peace and dialogue among civilizations.
He noted that, in efforts to promote tolerance and moderation, among other values, Tunisia’s President had established university chairs in international dialogue and in Islamic studies. Tunisia was dedicated to fighting factors that created instability, such as poverty, and had hosted meetings and international events to promote peace and security around the world. Dialogue was “the best way to protect ourselves against dangers to humankind, such as intolerance, extremism and terrorism”, he concluded.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) said his country, a meeting point of different cultures and religions, had created a form of national unity that transcended faiths, languages and economic interests. Thanks to a shared focus on things that united people in everyday life, his country had ended tensions a century and a half ago. Dialogue on values alone, however, did not itself build confidence, and to move forward, it was essential to identify specific problems and practical solutions. In that context, Switzerland fully supported the “Alliance of Civilizations” initiative.
He said that respect for religious and cultural diversity was about the good functioning of the rule of law and its principles: non-discrimination; freedom of expression; freedom of thought; and freedom of religion or belief. He was concerned at the growing risk of stereotyping religions and beliefs, and alarmed by increasing religious intolerance. Freedom of religion or belief was a multifaceted human right guaranteed by various international legal instruments, and he was firmly convinced that the non-discriminatory exercise of religion must be protected. Concerns about discrimination could be successfully addressed by approaching the issue under the umbrella of “religious discrimination”, rather than of “defamation of religion”, a flawed concept from a human rights viewpoint. Tolerance and mutual respect were vital for overcoming differences in perceptions, concepts and ideas.
IVÁN ROMERO-MARTINEZ ( Honduras) said that the issue was one of the most topical, as it pertained to freedom of action, freedom of religion, as well as political freedom. Honduras’ approach was based on the belief that freedom was among the unifying forces for mankind. It believed that the international community should seek to generate a culture of peace and not a culture of war, and it supported any endeavour by the United Nations along those lines. Honduras, thus, supported efforts that would combat fanaticism, intolerance and violence. There could be no dialogue without freedom.
He said his country faithfully respected all religions and cultures. The Constitution provided that all Hondurans were equal before the law, and it provided punishment for violations of that right. The text also sought to perpetuate the rule of law, guaranteeing a “political society”. A report by the Secretary-General had highlighted the Ecclesiastical Community on HIV/AIDS, established in Honduras by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). That Community met on regular basis, and organized events with the objective of promoting a shared religious approach towards those affected by HIV/AIDS.
It was imperative that the international community combine thoughts and hearts in acts to achieve tolerance, he stated. The establishment of a “society of love” should go hand-in-hand with the political will to build an alliance between religions and cultures.
NGUYEN TAT THANH ( Viet Nam) said that the Vietnamese people, having been victimized by many wars, treasured peace, stability and development. Viet Nam supported worldwide efforts to pursue those goals through dialogue and cooperation. To do so required mutual respect, understanding and tolerance. The importance of education -– especially among youth and the media –- in promoting respect, understanding and tolerance, should be emphasized, with concerted efforts in that regard to be implemented at global, regional, national and local levels.
He said his country commended efforts by the Alliance of Civilizations, the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace, and the United Nations system in promoting tolerance and dialogue. Designating a focal point in the United Nations Secretariat to coordinate mutually complementing activities within the Organization was welcome. Regionally, Vietnamese of different faiths and religions had been active in interfaith dialogue and the exchange of experiences, including within the Asia-Europe Meeting and in the Asia-Pacific region. Viet Nam was multi-ethnic and multireligious, with 54 nationalities and many different religious communities, totalling 20 million believers, living side by side. In war or peace, its strength lay in both the unity and diversity of its people.
SAMUEL OUTLULE ( Botswana) said that current deliberations should be followed by a readiness to make choices for tolerance. “What matters … is not what we are able to say about the peaceful nature of our respective religions and cultures, but rather what we are prepared to do to ensure that our faiths are used as instruments for the realization of peace and goodwill to humanity,” he said. National institutions must be empowered to promote tolerance, compromise and accommodation. Religion and culture had defined cultures since antiquity, binding individuals together and shaping relations between people and States. All religions must encourage their followers to be kind, tolerant, merciful, just and honest. The world would be a better place if its people concentrated on working together to improve the human condition.
He stressed the importance of teaching knowledge of other cultures and religions, and the need for them to coexist in peace. The challenge of interreligious and intercultural dialogue belonged to secular individuals, non-governmental organizations and States, as well as to the faithful. Understanding must be rooted in the values of collective wisdom, which united peoples of all faiths and cultures, as well as respect for human rights, non-discrimination, non-violence and democracy. The Alliance for Civilizations should focus on future discussions, not only on religious and cultural matters, but on concrete problems, often manifested in extremism and intolerance. Today’s culture of science and technology should have as its priority finding solutions to the immediate problems, thereby making it possible for religions and cultures to flourish. That would allow for the celebration of diversity as a platform for human progress, mutual understanding and peace.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) said that recent events had aggravated relations between different parts of the world to the point where directing all efforts to establishing an active dialogue among the world’s ethnicities, religions and cultures had become critical. That was why Slovenia was determined to make proactive contributions to openly addressing tensions between countries of different cultures, and especially, the tragic use of violence in the name of religion. Given the growing number of dialogue initiatives, there was a need for enhanced coordination, cooperation and complementarity, particularly among those held within the United Nations framework.
She said that human rights and diversity education could most effectively contribute to dialogue, peace and cooperation. Slovenia’s recent proposal to establish the Euro-Mediterranean University hoped to do just that, by attracting young people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The Slovenian Government had also set up this year a task force on intercultural dialogue, as well as, in 2006, the Centre for European Perspective, which sought to create tolerant societies through dialogue. In the coming year, the Centre would launch two projects aimed at fostering dialogue. The first concerned questions of secularism, political radicalism and immigration in the European Union, and the second grappled with the important question of how to make people of different religious and cultural backgrounds feel at home in the European Union. “Let us build then upon our common values and translate them into action,” she said. “My country, for one, extends its hand to anyone who wishes to join us in bringing more understanding into this world.”
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said that his country was aware of the importance of the challenge posed by the need for understanding among nations and peoples in today’s world. Spain was a firm defender of dialogue and cooperation as instruments to combat intolerance and discrimination, based on cultural and religious differences.
He said his country was already working on defining its own national plan for the Alliance of Civilizations. The goal would be, among other elements, to address the national, as well as international, aspects of intercultural and religious dialogue. The First World Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, slated to take place in Spain on 15 and 16 January 2008, was foreseen as a platform for politically reinforcing the initiative and obtaining specific results in the area of youth, among others. It would also be a good occasion to debate and pool the common progress that had been made, as well as enrich the Alliance implementation plan with new ideas.
In line with what was proposed in the implementation plan, there was a high degree of consensus around the suggested initiatives in the framework of the Alliance, he said. Those included the creation of a rapid response media mechanism in times of crisis, the expansion of intercultural exchanges among the youth, who should receive support via specific funds for projects that promoted dialogue and tolerance, and the utilization of mechanisms at the community, regional and local levels for establishing dialogue and preventing and overcoming conflicts.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) welcomed the high-level dialogue, given the need to overcome the widening gap and lack of mutual understanding between societies, which made it essential to highlight the importance of dialogue and diplomacy. The dialogue was revealing that conflicts attributed to religious and ethnic differences were grounded in inequality and exclusion, breeding radicalism, fanaticism and violence. Such relations existed today between nations and within societies. United Nations efforts should aim to understand the roots of extremism and promote an environment where fanaticism could not thrive.
She said that “people want the freedom to practice their religion, to speak their language, to celebrate their ethnic or religious heritage without fear of discrimination” or being excluded from other choices in life. States must respond to those demands. Managed well, they would bring greater cultural diversity and enrich people’s lives. Poor management could result in xenophobia, encourage conservative agendas and block new ideas, knowledge and skills. Increased interaction among peoples, resulting from globalization, required greater respect for diversity and stronger commitment to universal values. In closing, she cited the consensus of the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights. “[It] is the duty of States, regardless of their political and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
ADRIAN NERITANI ( Albania) said that Albanians had traditionally been tolerant and averse to extremism. They grew up in an atmosphere where religious differentiation was implied; there was no demarcation between Muslim, Orthodox or Catholic Albanians. Such tolerance originated “from the depths of centuries”. Tolerance among Albanians was linguistic and ethnic as well. Religious coexistence in Albania had been peculiar in a region where religion had often been linked to nationalism, and where fratricidal wars had been waged in the name of faith. In the last decade or so, the Balkans had seen human tragedies. The hope now was that the region could prosper naturally. Rhetoric could be better used to address issues in a realistic way.
He noted that, in recognition of Albania’s interreligious harmony, a regional summit on interreligious and intercultural dialogue had taken place in Tirana a few years ago. There, leaders and policymakers from Southeast Europe had committed themselves to educating a new European generation in a spirit of inclusiveness, and instilling a feeling of forgiveness rather than hatred. The Tirana Declaration emphasized that all religious leaders could influence how people understood each other and interacted. Albania’s peaceful religious pluralism was a value for the country, the Balkans and beyond; it was a model of religious coexistence, a value with no national borders, and biased towards democratic values.
AKEC KHOC ( Sudan) said that Islam and Christianity had coexisted and interacted for ages in his country. “However, conflict over the control of economic resources, rather than on violence and extremism, infrequently surfaced in those relations.” The facility of movement across borders had created a land diverse in cultures and religions, which could not remain cohesive without being anchored on cooperation, harmonious dialogue and the culture of peace, stability and security. Sudan’s geographical location in the Horn of Africa, and its shared borders with nine other countries, had made necessary strong dialogue mechanisms for harmonious interaction. However, the increased use of cybertechnologies required that such dialogue be intensified and scaled up.
He said his Government’s interim Constitution defended and promoted interreligious dialogue, tolerance, cooperation and respect for religious and cultural diversity. It also stipulated citizenship based on a number of rights, which sometimes collided with each other. Dialogue was the best choice for resolving such conflicts and maintaining a pluralistic, peaceful coexistence. The conclusion of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the South and the North had added more “flesh” to the Sudan’s pluralistic dimension. The formation of the Government of National Unity, which included members of various faiths and sects, was an example of the positive result of open-minded dialogue, cooperation and tolerance. National actions alone, however, were not enough. All stakeholders -- public and private -- should acknowledge the legitimate rights of all peoples to assert their religious and cultural identities through dialogue, and all regional organizations should energize their interreligious and intercultural cooperation institutions where they existed, or create them where they were absent.
ALEXEI TULBURE ( Republic of Moldova) underlined that his country fully subscribed to the statement made on behalf of the European Union. In today’s globalized world, the interaction of peoples, religions and cultures made it more necessary than ever to attempt to overcome old divisions. The Republic of Moldova’s long history, and location on a passageway between Asia and Europe, had led the country to become a homeland for diverse ethnic groups. The State guaranteed all its citizens the right to preserve, develop and express their ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity. In the Republic of Moldova, all actions aimed at ethnic, racial or religious hatred were forbidden by law.
He said that, in its recent history, the Republic of Moldova had undergone an internal conflict resulting in the secession and isolation of part of its territory. The root of the division lay in economic and political interests, rather than cultural or religious ones. Praising the activities and programmes of UNESCO and UNICEF, he said education played a key role in constructing a pluralistic and inclusive society. The Republic of Moldova strongly supported the Alliance of Civilisations initiative.
DOMINIQUE MAMBERTI, Secretary for Relations with States, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that there could be no peace without understanding and cooperation among religions, and there could be no understanding and cooperation among religions without religious liberty. The safeguarding and promotion of religious liberty for all required both State action and religious responsibility.
He said that the full exercise of the right to religious freedom was based on respect for human reason and its capacity to know the truth; it ensured openness to transcendence as an indispensable guarantee of human dignity, and allowed all religions to manifest their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it. Religious freedom included the right to disseminate one’s own faith and the right to change it. Respect for religious liberty would unmask the pretence of some terrorists to justify their unjustifiable actions on religious grounds. If violence still arose between religious groups, anti-incitement programmes in civil society should be supported, especially when they were initiated by local groups in cross-religious alliances. Anti-incitement activities included education, mobilization of religious leaders, mass movements opposing hate speech and other public acts calculated to spur sectarian violence.
Religious minorities did not need special protection or status, as long as their religious freedom was fully guaranteed and they were not discriminated against on religious grounds, he said. They should enjoy the same civil rights as the general population and members of the majority religion, such as for the construction and repair of places of worship. Fruitful high-level international gatherings of religious leaders aimed at praying for and promoting peace should be replicated at national and local levels. Prayer and good intentions were authentic only if they translated into practical gestures at all levels.
EKMELEDDIN IHSANOGLU, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that there had been “overwhelming agreement” on the importance of interreligious and intercultural understanding in peacebuilding and in ensuring security and prosperity. The Conference fully subscribed to that conclusion and welcomed the Alliance of Civilization initiative. However, there had been a lack of concrete action: few programmes or projects had been implemented, and fewer attempts had been made to address conflicts based on faith. Interfaith dialogue or understanding should not remain an empty slogan; practical and concrete measures were badly needed. There had also been deficiencies in conceiving or conducting dialogue. For instance, some spoke of dialogue for the sake of dialogue, while others lacked the political will to reach a positive outcome, and some groups claimed that they alone represented the truth. Greater sensitivity and appreciation towards others, and not doctrinal agreements, should be the purpose of interfaith dialogue. Dialogue should also aim for “ethnical globalization”.
He said that the Conference had suggested discussions on legal provisions to ban defamation, as to do so would block attempts to poison relations between different religions under the guise of freedom of expression. Rising Islamophobia had seen Muslims facing hate speech, injustice and discrimination. Indeed, tense relations constituted a major threat to peace and security. There was an urgent need for Islam and Christianity to agree on an historic reconciliation, similar to the reconciliation a few decades ago between Christianity and Judaism. In this age of globalization, reconciliation between Islam and Christianity would be an event of resounding historic proportions, touching almost one half of humanity.