Mr. President of the General Assembly,
High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations,
Italy wishes to congratulate with you for having timely convened this important event. We believe that the UN should continue playing a prominent role in fostering core values for peace such as tolerance and reconciliation.
We align with the statement which will be delivered by the European Union and wish to add the following remarks in a national capacity.
It is a common truth that coexistence and mutual respect enrich and strengthen the character of societies. The severe threat of violent extremism that some regions face today seeks to divide us by ethnicity, nationality, religion, and beliefs. Some barbaric groups sadly attempt to dismantle the multiethnic and multireligious character of societies. In this regard, we condemn in the strongest terms the killing of Ethiopian nationals in Libya by the extremists and reaffirm that the UN-backed political talks remained the best chance for Libya to overcome the crisis.
As a close friend and in some cases neighbor of these affected societies, Italy stresses the importance of preserving religious tolerance and peaceful reconciliation as values per se. That’s why we are actively engaged in projects in favor of ethnic and religious minorities—including Yazidis and Christian denominations—providing health care, rebuilding schools, supporting educational and social reintegration, and protecting the cultural heritage in different parts of the world.
The fight against discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds is first and foremost a cultural commitment that requires long-term efforts to protect younger generations. Indeed we believe that preventing religious intolerance and violent extremism begins by promoting religious dialogue and mutual understanding at the grass-root level.
By bloody past experiences we learnt that inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogues begin at home, in the neighbourhood, in the towns. According to this approach, we believe that mediation led by civil society can deliver added value in the quest for peace and security, especially when it deeply encompasses inter-faith dialogue and cultural understanding.
The well-known Italian NGO “Comunità di Sant’Egidio”, for instance, has successfully brokered peace agreements in serious crisis throughout three decades, lastly in the Central African Republic.
Media can also play a key role in promoting dialogue and tolerance, countering the grim narrative proposed by extremists through positive and constructive messages.
Italy’s commitment on freedom of religion and belief is deeply rooted in its own national identity. I would like to recall just the latest three initiatives of my country in this field. Two years ago, we hosted in Rome the international conference on religious freedom and peaceful coexistence. Last year we have been supporting the UN Office on Genocide Prevention to update the “Framework of Analysis” on atrocity crimes which strengthens the UN’s early warning capacity by stressing sectarian violence and religious-based propaganda. This year, Italy has totally financed a project of the International Development Law Organization in the field of freedom of religion. And we fully support the Iraq and Germany’s initiative for a General Assembly resolution on the protection of the Iraqi cultural heritage and Secretary-General’s proposal to draft an Action Plan to protect minorities in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Inclusive dialogue, freedom of religion and belief, and trans-cultural understanding—these are the values that Italy defends in any context.
To this end, we actively support the involvement of those religious leaders and non-state actors rooted in the affected societies and ready for countering violent extremism and defending the principles of humanity across the world.
I thank you.
Mr. President of the General Assembly,