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Statement delivered by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, at the High-level conversation of the General Assembly on “Religions for Peace”

President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies, colleagues,

Today we are witnessing a new eruption of religious factors into international relations and religious stakeholders playing a greater role in foreign policy.

A matter of particular concern is the regular, systematic nature of religious-based violence against individuals and against entire communities in various parts of the world. The crises of recent years have been characterized by an increase in violent extremism and by ethnic and religious discrimination, adding to the already precarious situation of religious minority communities.

The traditional message of peace and mutual respect shared by all religions has been supplanted by an obscurantist, totalitarian ideology. Religions have become objects of manipulation, invoked to justify heinous violence and crime.

Terrorist episodes, manifestations of radicalization, intolerance and violent extremism – which also affect Europe – should prompt us to reflect deeply on the importance of dialogue among religions, the education of our youth to the values of tolerance and mutual respect, and the challenges of integration and social inclusion within our communities.

Italy is firmly convinced that the protection of religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities helps to build a pluralistic, inclusive society respectful of fundamental rights and freedoms. It is not just an ethical, humanitarian or religious imperative. It is a guarantee of peace and stability and, as such, a fundamental part of the broader commitment to promote and guarantee effective protection of human rights.

This is why we must keep the international community’s attention focused on serious violations of religious freedoms and abuses of religious minorities as well as work to promote inclusive policies to rebuild, on a different basis, relations with the cultural and religious diversities that are part of our everyday lives. We need to work to assure that our societies do not seek out totalizing, violent interpretations of religion for a response that might give meaning to the desperate search for identity.

Italy supports the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide and the engagement of religious leaders in the prevention of incitement to hatred that can lead to the commission of mass atrocities. In Treviso last September we hosted the seminar of religious leaders from the European area, which is being followed up by other regional seminars (most recently in Washington D.C. last March) in preparation for the drafting of the UN Plan of Action on this issue.

In the promotion of freedom of religion or belief and the fight against extremism the media also has a role to play. Especially in the current context, in which many Countries are facing global challenges – I am thinking of migration and its causes and effects – we need to work in favor of pluralistic, inclusive societies. This will require the proactive contribution of every component of society that can reach in particular young people, who are the most important agents of change.

Thank you.