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Security Council – Meeting in Arria-formula on “Advancing the safety and security of persons belonging to religious

Statement delivered by Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting in Arria-formula on “Advancing the safety and security of persons belonging to religious minorities in armed conflict” —

Mr. President,

Italy aligns itself to the statement delivered by the European Union.

We join Poland and the other co-organisers of today’s meeting in celebrating the first International Day on Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, recently established by the General Assembly resolution which we were proud to co-sponsor.

Let me also thank the briefers for their appreciated contributions.

Over the recent years, we have witnessed an increase in violent extremism and ethnic and religious discrimination around the world, adding to the already precarious situation often faced by persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities. Religions have become objects of manipulation, invoked to justify heinous violence and crime, such as terrorist attacks, manifestations of radicalization, hate speech, intolerance and violent extremism against communities and individuals belonging to religious minorities.

Violations of freedom of religion or belief can be early indicators of gross human rights violations that can escalate into war crimes, genocides or crimes against humanity. These acts of violence become even more frequent and serious in the context of armed conflicts, where vulnerable groups and individuals are targets of attacks in violation of their human rights. This is why we commend the focus on armed conflicts of today’s meeting.

Italy has been traditionally at the forefront of the efforts aimed at safeguarding freedom of religion or belief around the world as a cornerstone of the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of thought and expression. We are convinced that the promotion of freedom of religion or belief and the protection on cultural and religious heritage decisively contribute to building pluralistic, inclusive and peaceful societies. For this reason, we are in favor of a renewed action of the International Community in defense of cultural and religious heritage, especially in conflict or crises zones. Cultural and religious heritage is indeed the bedrock of civilization, a testament to human identity, history and prosperity.

This approach is enshrined in our bilateral and development cooperation relations as well as in our action in multilateral fora.
In the bilateral sphere, we have financed several projects aimed at supporting ethnic and religious minorities that have suffered from persecution: just to name a few, since 2016 we invested 3.5 million € in promoting dialogue and reconciliation among the different components of the Iraqi society in areas occupied by Daesh and subject to its policy of persecution, where Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens have been coexisting for centuries. Also, last year the Italian Parliament established a specific fund for supporting persecuted Christian minorities in areas of crisis.

On the multilateral dimension, Italy strongly supports the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide, including the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, and the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to prevent incitement to violence. Italy also hosted one of the regional seminars on the role of religious leaders in preventing atrocity crimes with the participation of Special Adviser Dieng and about 30 religious leaders. Furthermore, we have been among the main contributors to the “UN Framework of Analysis” as a tool for assessing the risk of atrocity crimes.

I can assure you, Mr. President, that our commitment in this field will remain strong also in the future.

I thank you.