H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President, United Nations General Assembly

Common Ground for the Common Good

I would like to offer special thanks to his Majesty, King Abdullah II of Jordan for his initiative for interfaith harmony and for the successful adoption of Resolution 65/5 in November 2010, proclaiming the first week of February every year the World Interfaith Harmony Week at the United Nations.

Let me also commend Member States for adopting the resolution that proposed World Interfaith Harmony Week as an annual event. In doing so, Member States underscored the centrality of interfaith cooperation as an important condition for building a culture of peace.

Billions of people around the world identify themselves as believers. One is hard-pressed to find any society, culture, or civilization which has not been shaped to some extent by religious values and practices. In today’s interconnected yet divided world, it is more important than ever to draw on religion’s potential in the promotion of peace and stability.

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UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

Common Cause in Mutual Respect

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s opening remarks at the special event on “Common Ground for Common Good” to mark the concluding day of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, in New York on 7 February:

I am pleased to address this special event, and I thank the President of the General Assembly for hosting it.  Let us also thank King Abdullah of Jordan for his continued efforts to advance inter-religious harmony — including the adoption, last year, of World Interfaith Harmony Week by the General Assembly, as well as the ongoing efforts in Amman to facilitate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authorities.

Faith is the glue that often bonds communities and cultures around the world.  Yet, too often it is used as an excuse to emphasize difference and deepen divisions.  Only by finding common cause in mutual respect for shared spiritual and moral values can we hope for harmony among nations and peoples.  This observance is meant to remind us that the world’s great religions have more in common than what divides them.  Divided, we are weak; united we are strong.

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H.E. Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt

H.E. Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt

Religious Liberty and Peace

Mr. President,

It is my pleasure to add my voice to yours Mr. President and to that of Her Excellency Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary General and the other leaders speaking in today’s program to highlight the work being done by religious organizations and to promote ongoing efforts for achieving greater interreligious harmony.

Today’s meeting is a reminder that the participation of religious organizations and openness to the Transcendent are not only a welcome reality in many parts of the globe but are a necessity everywhere if we are to address the challenges of our time.

This reminder of the role of religious organizations within society is particularly important in a time when we increasingly see societal and governmental leaders denying the role of religious organizations or marginalizing their participation in public life and in decision making.

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Ms. Monica Willard

Monica Willard, President, Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations.  UN Photo, Paulo Filgueiras

Interfaith Is Alive and Well

As I look at the General Assembly filled with people of faith and goodwill, I am reminded of the difference one year can make. Last year, the Committee of Religious NGOs launched this initiative with the Mission of Jordan and the Department of Public Information and hosted a breakfast for about 150 people. This year we have the good fortune of working with the Office of the President of the General Assembly to organize this event.

The resolution that sets the first week of February as the annual date for World Interfaith Harmony Week recalls previous UN resolutions that set the ground work for this week, such as the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, the resolutions on the promotion of religious and cultural understanding, harmony, and cooperation, the Alliance of Civilizations, and the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief.

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Mr. Philippe Kridelka

Philippe Kridelka, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office, New York. UN Photo  Paulo Filgueiras

The Imperative of Dialogue

The imperative of dialogue has perhaps never been as important as it is today. People and societies are more interconnected than ever, but new inequalities are arising. These are times of great opportunity but also of turbulence and economic crisis. In ever more complex societies, in cities that are ever more diverse, we know what happens when dialogue and understanding break down.

The fabric of society is quickly torn, but it takes long to mend. Cultures and religions are different across the world, but humanity remains a single community, united around human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Diversity is a reality for our societies. It should be considered as a positive and enriching force for innovation and renewal and as an engine for development.

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Dr. Marc Scheuer

Marc Scheuer, Director, Secretariat of the UN Alliance of Civilizations. UN Photo, Paulo Filgueiras

An Alliance of Civilizations

It was a particular pleasure and satisfaction to read that this initiative had been inspired by the lively interactions between more than 2,000 participants in the recent fourth global forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Doha, Qatar. Coming from all walks of life, senior politicians, religious leaders, mayors of big cities, corporate CEOs, NGO activists, media professionals, youth representatives, those participants in Doha were all looking for the most promising experiences and the most innovative ideas for improving understanding and cooperation among nations and peoples, reducing polarization, and building more inclusive societies at local and global levels in which cultural and religious differences can be experienced as an asset and contribute to underlying rather than obscuring our common humanity.

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Dr. William F. Vendley

Common Ground among the World’s Religions

Your Excellency President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, Your Excellency Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, Esteemed Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good morning. I am Dr. William Vendley, serving as the Secretary General of Religions for Peace, the world's largest multi-religious organization working in over 90 countries. My task is to speak about "commonalities," areas shared by the world's diverse religious communities.

I must begin by saying a word on their differences: The world's religions are different. These differences are profoundly defining. The fact of difference translates into a very simple practical precept: Turn to Buddhists for an expression of what Buddhism means, turn to Muslims for an understanding of Islam, turn to Hindus for Hindu interpretations and so forth for each faith.

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Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami

Acharya Shri Shrivatsa Goswami.UN Photo Paulo Filgueiras

Hinduism, Interfaith Dialogue, and Cooperation

I bow down to the divine in all of you present. I feel privileged to greet you all on behalf of India, home to over a billion Hindus, along with all major religious traditions of the world, and the only home to some. I stand here with a humble awareness that Hindus have never attempted to expand their borders militarily in the name of religion. Hindus are not perfect: social and economic inequality is no stranger to our common life. Yet mutual respect has been a hallmark of Hindu politics.

Our guiding principle, uttered already in the Vedas, has been “Let noble thoughts come to us from all directions.” Hinduism’s pride is that it celebrates diversity, and that has often made it possible for dialogue to win out over conflict in Indian history.

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Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh

Fusion of the Sacred and Secular

Blessed brothers and Sisters, Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji ki Fateh.

May Satguru bless us all.

As a Sikh I am honoured privileged and humbled to be invited to this auspicious gathering, to share with you some guidance from our Dharam as I understand it.

Within the context of common ground, Guru Granth Sahib Ji our Exalted Scripture begins with 'Ik Onkar' - explicitly emphasising that there is but only one God responsible for the entire creation. 'The whole of the human race is but one large family' states Guru Gobind Singh Ji our tenth Guru. With this universality of the Almighty, we humans have common origins, common destiny and common goals. Pain, suffering, grief and tears are all common to us. We inhabit the same planet and share the same common environment.

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H.E. Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu

H.E. Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations.UN Photo Evan Schneider

Spirituality, Education, and Peace

Each day in this house we encounter many of the world’s greatest challenges: the scourge of war, along with the scourge of poverty, disease, and injustice. Citizens of the world persistently cry out for peace, food, clean water, education, and governments that serve their legitimate aspirations.

In many countries around the world conflicts have occurred between peoples of different regional, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. While the majority of the people are peaceloving, there are those who have chosen the path of violence. They fan the flames of conflict and often appeal to narrow sectarian interests.

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Dr. Prof. M. Din Syamsuddin

Dr. Prof. M. Din Syamsuddin, Muhammadiyah and Indonesia Ulama Council. UN Photo Paulo Filgueiras.

Peaceful Mediation of Conflict through Interfaith Dialogue

At a time when differences often lead to friction, and friction leads to conflict, the search for peaceful ways of resolving differences and conflicts has become imperative. In this regard, I believe that the significance of mediation as an instrument to resolve differences and to find common ground cannot be overstated.

The importance of the peaceful resolution of differences becomes even more evident when we look at the reality of the world where we live in today. While poverty, illiteracy, disease, and injustice still present the most difficult challenges to humanity, we are also presented with the fact that violent conflicts and even wars continue to be the most devastating source of human suffering.

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