"Mr. High Representative, Excellencies, 'What if a shooting happens here?'"
This is now the main question of faith-based communities in the wake of the horrifying attacks on worshippers and religious gathering places immemorially regarded by all religions as sanctuaries. They have turned into slaughter houses.
From Jolo in Southern Philippines to San Diego and Pittsburg, from Christchurch to Sri Lanka, the increasing trend is of extremists targeting places of worship to fuel the flames of fanaticism and spread fear for one purpose: submission.
Places of worship represent "a belief system that contradicts the extremists’ world view and defies their ideology;" that ideology reduces peaceful religious worship to submission and conversion to what cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called another religion.
Extremism is not religion; it is what it looks like — terror for the pleasure of it. Analysts point out that the scale and sophistication of extremist violence portend a larger and longer planned operation of terror.
The Philippines therefore deeply appreciates the UN Alliance of Civilizations for convening today’s consultations toward a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. We commend the Secretary-General for this timely initiative. But religious sites should be expanded to mean any place where people gather to worship and not just historic places.
Excellencies, the Philippines condemns terrorism anywhere in the world, however inspired — by religious madness or individual perversity. In this case, both serve one purpose: the sick indulgence of violence. We abhor terrorism in all its forms and manifestations by act or speech; wherever, by whomever, and against whomsoever committed; and whatever the excuse.
The Philippines wishes to submit the following inputs:
First, a plan of action to safeguard religious sites must build on the “Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes” launched by the Secretary-General in July 2017.
Second, a plan of action must be a programmatic tool with specific thematic recommendations; and implemented at the regional, national and local levels.
Third, a plan of action must come with a dynamic, multi-faith, social advocacy campaign led by the Department of Global Communications with UN Information Centers — and in partnership with faith-based networks. It must come down to the reality of faiths as actually practiced.
Fourth, increase and strengthen the profile of women — religious and secular — connected to religious sites and religious work anywhere.
Finally, identify security best practices and standards for faith-based communities across regional and religious boundaries.
The Philippines also propose the inclusion of the following key messages from GA resolution 73/129 adopted by consensus on December 12, 2018:
- Recognizing the growing importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in the context of the global phenomenon of migration, which increases interaction among different traditions, cultures and religions;
- Encouraging and providing platforms for voices of moderation to be heard; and
- Promoting reconciliation by working with faith leaders and communities; through reconciliatory measures and acts of service; and by encouraging forgiveness and compassion.
Excellencies, as UN member states and observers, we represent an ideal, an identity and a theme that aspires for a world at peace through mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance and reconciliation.
We aspire to be inclusive societies with a belief that dialogue can prevent conflict and diffuse cultural tensions.
The Philippines stands in solidarity with the civilized community of nations in defending people's right to practice religion without fear or retribution.
An attack on one faith is an attack on all faiths, religions or beliefs. Such an attack can never be an act of religion. As all rivers flow into one all-encompassing ocean, so all prayers go to God by whatever name She is called. Thank you.
The speech was delivered by H.E. Ms. Kira Christianne D. Azucena, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Consultations on The Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites on June 11, 2019.
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