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UN General Assembly – Italy’s Contribution – Religious dialogue Forum. Terzi: commitment to social plurality

Strengthening religious dialogue, fighting intolerance and violence and disseminating respect for human rights: these were the goals proposed to the UN, in the margins of the General Assembly, during a forum chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi and his Jordanian colleague Nasser Judeh, whose participants included experts and members of nongovernmental educational associations and organizations.

The forum was held at an especially delicate moment in relations between the West and Islam after the American anti-Mohammed film and the ensuing violent reaction in a series of Islamic countries, which included the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that cost Ambassador Stevens his life. Ministers Terzi and Judeh have begun to develop a new instrument of dialogue on this theme and called for a new meeting in the coming months.

Tolerance and plurality

“We are working on the dissemination of human rights, freedom of expression and religion, tolerance and plurality in our societies”, the minister summarised, underscoring how US President Barack Obama’s push for strong dialogue with Islam was “from the beginning, of fundamental importance not only for the United States, but also for Europe”. On the other hand, the minister observed, “there is no other way to approach the Arab Spring constructively but to understand it and creating personal bonds with the new leaders”.

Neither insults nor violent reactions

“As Muslims”, asserted Judeh, representatives of one of the countries considered more moderate and open in the Middle East, “we are for dialogue between religions. We reject insults against Muslims, such as the recent film, but violent reactions as well”.

The message that emerged from the meeting was that, on the one hand, it is necessary to stop playing with the religious beliefs of others, but on the other, as Terzi said, it is necessary “to stop the violence everywhere”. According to the foreign minister, the initial reactions “of our society lead us to believe that we are capable of healing from these wounds and re-establishing the proper balance”.

Italy and Jordan have already begun to organise the next forum, with the aim of broadening participation and generating a stronger and more incisive United Nations action.