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Side – event on religious tolerance (New York, 27 settembre 2012) – Chairs’ Summary

Ministerial Level side-event and panel discussions on
The Civil Society and the Education on Human Rights as a tool for promoting religious tolerance
UN Headquarters – Conference Room 5 (NLB)
27 September 2012
Chairs’ Summary

Victims of human rights violations and day-to-day discriminations have the right to expect that the international community is on their side. This is a perpetual challenge of the United Nations Member States. This concept, stated by the Secretary-General in Geneva, during his address to the Human Rights Council on September 10, has been at center of the event co-chaired today by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the margin of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The many participants, members of governments, members of national parliaments, NGOs’ representatives, opinion makers, have debated the key role of civil societies in educating to respect human rights, pacific coexistence and minorities’ rights.

To face this challenge the international community must engage in promoting tolerance and religious dialogue through education and the involvement of civil society.

Freedom of Religion and the protection of religious minorities worldwide represent a priority to governments, international organisations and NGOs. The representatives of more than 40 NGOs and Associations from different parts of the world, inspired by different religions and beliefs, made today a strong call for increasing the number of projects focused on education to religious tolerance and promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FORB).

Expectations were voiced that the General Assembly adopt unanimously a resolution on FORB inspired by principles of interreligious dialogue, respect for minorities and acceptance of the peace message in all ethical visions and religious beliefs.

Combating religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence remains a key challenge that confronts today the international community. The use of religion to achieve political results and violence do not enhance respect for religion or beliefs. Tolerance, dialogue and authentic faith do.

A strong focus on the human rights security dimension has been advocated by the UN senior representatives. The role of civil society in preventing and defusing conflicts caused by religious differences with educational tools was also stressed. The civil society can play a substantial task in neutralising the intolerant message disseminated by fundamentalists through campaigns and projects to teach respect for the views and culture of the others.

During the first panel “The best practices of Governments and Civil Society related to education and training programs as a tool for promotion and guarantee of religious freedom, religious and interfaith dialogue”, NGO’s representatives, introducing examples of best practices, have drawn attention to the importance of educational and training programs, where spreading the values of tolerance and respect for the religious identity of each person and community has to be always present.

The second panel: “Current and future challenges to the International Community regarding freedom of religion or belief and the protection of religious minorities”, experts analyzed the current international situation. Religious freedom is under attack around the world by extremists. The international community has to take up the challenge of how best to protect and promote religious freedom around the word. This task – participants agreed – is particularly important when countries are entering periods of political transition. Religious freedom is a safety valve which allows everyone to feel they can participate constructively in building a new society. The education and training promoted by the civil society in this field is the most important tool that Governments can sustain to this end.

Participants to the High Level segment:

– The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic, H.E. Mr. Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata;
– The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, H.E. Mr. Nasser Judeh;
– As key-note speaker, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, H.E. Ms. Navanethem Pillay;
– As key-note speaker, the Director-General of UNESCO, H.E. Ms. Irina Bokova;
– As key-note speaker, the UN Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, H.E. Mr. Adama Dieng;
– The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, H.E. Mr. Tonio Borg;
– The Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, Mr. H.E. Karl Erjavec;
– The Vice Chancellor and Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, H.E. Mr. Michael Spindelegger;
– The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Morocco, H.E. Mr. Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani;
– The Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, Ms. Vesna Pusić;
– The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, H.E. Mr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis;
– The Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, H.E. Mr. Didier Burkhalter;
– The Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities of the United Kindom, Rt. Hon Baroness Sayeeda Warsi;
– The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain, Mr. Gonzalo De Benito Secades;
– The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Poland, Ms. Grażyna Maria Bernatowicz.

Among the invitees were members of Parliamentary Delegations, the Deputy Permanent Observer for the Holy See to the United Nations, the Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta (SMOM), Permanent Observer for the Organization for the Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the US Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook, the French Ambassador at large for Human Rights, Mr. François Zimeray, and representatives of many Permanent Missions to the United Nations.

During the first panel “The best practices of Governments and Civil Society related to education and training programs as a tool for promotion and guarantee of religious freedom, religious and interfaith dialogue”, Monica Willard, President of the NGOs’ Religious Committee to the United Nations and Representative of the NGO “United Religions Initiative”, moderated the discussion and underlined the important link between today’s event and the celebrations of the International Day of Peace on September 21st, 2012.

Regional and national programs, initiatives and best practices were presented by the following panelists:

– Jivka Petrova, Adviser on Human Rights and Democracy, External Action Service of the European Union;
– Dr. Deogracious Andrawa Droma, AVSI (“Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale”).
– Prof. Sarah Sayeed, “Interfaith Center New York”;
– Dr. Jafar Jaward, Al-Hakim Foundation;
– Robert E.A. Borje, Permanent Mission of the Philippines

Remarks were formulated by the following NGOs and Associations:

-“Fondazione Foedus”;
– CO.RE.IS.;
– VIS;

The second panel “Current and future challenges to the International Community regarding freedom of religion or belief and the protection of religious minorities” was moderated by Dr. Pamela Falk (CBS). The following panelists discussed Freedom of Religion or Belief stressing the gaps in implementing the international conventions, underlining the problems of religious minorities, the role of religious actors in rejecting intolerance and the need for diplomacy to develop new mechanisms to integrate the religious dimension into peace efforts;

– Prof. Elizabeth Defeis, (Seton Hall University);
– Dr. Bani Dugal (Bah’i International Community);
– Dr. William F. Vendley (“Religions for Peace”);
– Dr. James Patton (International Center for Religion and Diplomacy).


List of NGOs and Associations invited to the event.

NGOs                      PARTICIPANTS                    HOME PAGES
Al-Hakim Foundation Jafar Jawan (PANELIST)
Amnesty International Nicole Bjerler
Associazione Culturale Eccellenze Italiane  Rossana Pace
AVSI Deogracious Adrawa Droma (PANELIST)
AVSI Ezio Castelli
AVSI Jaqueline Aldrette
Baha’i International Community Bani Dugal  (PANELIST)
Baha’i International Community Daniel Perell
B’nai B’rith International  David Michaels
Caritas Internationalis  Joseph Cornelius Donnelly
CBS Pamela Falk (MODERATOR Panel 2)
CO.RE.IS. (Comunità Religiosa Islamica) italiana Yahya Pallavicini
Comitato Italiano UN-Women Simone A. Ovart
Committee of Religious NGOs at the UN Monica Willard (MODERATOR Panel 1)
FEZANA Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America Homi D. Gandhi
FEZANA Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America Shanaya Deboo
FEZANA Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America Pearl Kermani
Franciscans International  Mike Lasky
Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council of North and South America Lila Prounis  
Interfaith Center Sarah Sayeed  (PANELIST)
International Center for Religion and Diplomacy James Patton  (PANELIST)
International Religious Freedom Caucus Stephanie Hammond
International Shinto Foundation  Masafumi Nakanishi
JUS PRIMI VIRI Angela Maria Loreto
No Peace without Justice Alvilda Jablonko, Ilwad Elmi, Gianluca Eramo  http:/
NGO Committee on the Spirituality, Values and Global concerns Sharon Hamilton
NGO Committee on the Spirituality, Values and Global concerns Anne Hughes
Pax Romana Joseph Klee
Pax Romana Alejandra Rosero
Pax Romana Grazia Arias
Pax Romana Maya Saoud
Pax Romana Christopher Dekki
Religions for Peace William Vendley  (PANELIST)
Rotary Club New York Giorgio Balestrieri
Seton Hall University, School of Law Elizabeth Defeis  (PANELIST)
Sisters of Charity Federation Caroljean Willie
Soka Gakkai International Hiro Sakurai
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy Joseph K. Grieboski
The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies Jay Speights
The New Seminary for Interfaith Studies Michael Festa
Unitarian Universalist Bruce Knotts
United Religions Initiative Roger Ross
United Sikhs Hardayal Singh
United Sikhs Jasminder Kaur
Universal Peace Federation Taj Hamad
Universal Peace Federation Genie Kagawa
VIS Barbara Terenzi
Won Buddhism International Sungee Park
Won Buddhism International Eunju Nam
Won Buddhism International Chung Ohun Lee
World  Council of Arya Samaj Florence Kapoor  
World  Council of Arya Samaj Vijay Kapoor  
World Youth Alliance  Elyssa Koren