Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to express on behalf of the OIC General Secretariat, our sincere appreciation to the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations for holding this important event on “Interfaith Harmony: Embracing the Other”.
At the present time, the world is confronted by multiple global challenges threatening our peaceful coexistence, and interreligious harmony which can only be addressed with joint and coordinated efforts.
It is indeed of utmost importance to, not only resist forces that spread hatred, division and misunderstanding but also combine our efforts to defeat them. It is through the power of embracing the other that we would be able to realize each other and explore our similarities that outweigh and outnumber our differences.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to reiterate the OIC’s guiding principles of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding, and peaceful coexistence towards other religions and cultures. As a leading pioneer of the dialogue among followers of different faiths and civilizations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has been a committed partner of the international community in promoting respect for different kinds of traditions and religious practices and in rejecting intolerance, discrimination and violent extremism in their various forms.
In this context, the OIC firmly believes in the need for mobilizing and reaching out to civil society including religious leaders, women and youth.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need to be mindful that extremists will continue to incite hatred and violence against “the other” misusing religious beliefs, exploiting religious sentiments and portraying distorted images. It is within the same mind-set that negative stereotyping of Islam and discrimination against Muslims continue to rise and remain unabated.
This situation warrants joint and coordinated efforts to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue and respect diversity as a shared human heritage and also to raise awareness that values of peace, human dignity and tolerance are shared by world’s great religions including Islam.
As part of its commitment to engender culture of harmony among peoples of diverse religious faiths, civilizations and cultural backgrounds, the OIC supported international and regional initiatives for promoting interfaith harmony and took the lead in pioneering dialogue among civilizations in 1998.
The importance attached by the Organization of Islamic cooperation to interfaith and intercultural harmony is reflected in the initiatives such as those of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia with major events in Makkah, Madrid and at the UN General Assembly in New York in 2008 that were followed by the establishment of the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).
It is encouraging to note that the World Interfaith Harmony came at the initiative of the head of an OIC Member State, His Majesty King Abdullah Ibn Al Hussein II of Jordan, during 65th session of the UN General Assembly.
Together with the European Union, Canada, and the United States, the OIC co-organized at the United Nations headquarters a High Level Forum on Combating Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hatred on January 17, in New York. The Forum expressed concerns about the rising tide of discrimination and violence targeting Muslims in the West and worldwide and discussed ways to address it.
The OIC actively participated in the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, held in Baku, Azerbaijan on April 25-27, 2016. The OIC along with its subsidiary organs organized a number of side events to promote harmony and cooperation among religions and cultures. On the occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week, the Permanent Delegation of the OIC to the United Nations in Geneva will be co-organizing the 2nd Dialogue of Faith, Peacebuilding and Development on February 9, 2017 in Geneva, with the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations in Geneva, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, the Permanent Observer of Malta to the United Nations in Geneva and the United Nations Christian Association.
Within the framework of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, The OIC Permanent Observer Mission to the UN in New York organized a panel event in February 2012 entitled "The Role of the Faith-based Organizations and Interfaith Initiatives in Reconciliation and Peacemaking".
Launching of the Istanbul Process to encourage implementation of HRC Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief” was another milestone achievement in creating a platform to bring different stake holders to discuss and understand each other.
The OIC continues to support the MENA Regional Inter-religious Council of Religions for Peace, as an important regional multi-religious mechanism that is led by the religious leaders of the region’s religious communities to advance citizenship, religious freedom and protection of minorities.
We are also contributing, as co-founder of 'the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. The Network was initiated in 2013 as a collaborative effort between Finn Church Aid (FCA), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and Religions for Peace (RfP) with the encouragement of UN Mediation Support Unit and UNAOC Secretariat.
It aims to draw on and strengthen the positive contribution of religious and traditional peacemakers, and strives to “connect the efforts of the United Nations with these important peace advocates”.
Many international organizations and NGOs including the UN General Secretariat, UNAoC, UNDP, UNESCO, the African Union, The Arab League, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and ISESCO who share the same vision are partners of the OIC.
In conclusion, I would like to stress on the urgency of intercultural understanding and reciprocal respect through interfaith dialogue and through forming partnerships to encounter those who threaten our peace and security.
Muslims are among the prime victims of violence and stigmatization based on their beliefs. Most of their sufferings are at the hands of those groups who hijack Islam through their most inaccurate and distorted interpretation.
Thus, we, as an organization, will remain committed to contribute to, and be in the forefront of, all efforts in the fight against extremism, hate-mongering and discrimination based on beliefs in their multifaceted nature, sources and manifestations.
In this regard, we stand firmly by the Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 and work sincerely with our partners including the USA and EU towards the implementation of its provisions.