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Thank you Nihal. Excellencies,
I am very pleased to join you today to celebrate the first International Day of Human Fraternity.
It is heartening to see people coming together from across the globe to promote interreligious dialogue and speak up against religious bigotry and other forms of discrimination.
I would also like to congratulate UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres and Mrs. Latifa ibn Ziaten, on receiving this week the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity – we commend their commitment to foster peace and reconciliation globally, as well as the Secretary-General’s pledge to donate his prize money to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Today, now more than ever, all of us have a role to play in fostering peaceful and inclusive societies. Tragically, hate speech is becoming too prevalent around the world. Violence against places of worship and minorities continues to escalate. And social media is being exploited to disseminate propaganda. These challenges are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted deep-rooted inequalities.
History has repeatedly demonstrated how hate speech and incitement to violence – if not clearly debunked, denounced, and opposed – lead to greater dangers, such as genocides and crimes against humanity.
The international community has a critical role to play as we collectively seek to turn the tide. The UAE’s model as a progressive and stable society is built on the principles of inclusion and acceptance of the other. Today, the UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities and several faith communities that peacefully co-exist and thrive.
Yet we understand that creating peaceful societies at home is not enough: In a region that has suffered enormously from violence and extremism, the UAE is committed to fostering harmony between religions and cultures at the regional and global level. This is why we choose the topic of “advancing inclusion” as a key priority for the UAE as our country seeks an elected seat on the UN Security Council for the 2022-2023 term.
It is in line with these efforts that we introduced – together with Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – a UN resolution proclaiming today as the International Day of Human Fraternity.
This initiative was inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity signed by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyib on February 4th, 2019 in Abu Dhabi. This document, which we hope will serve as an inspiration to future generations, highlights several fundamental principles that aim to create a culture of peace, defuse religious and cultural tensions, and protect the rights of minorities and the most vulnerable.
For our efforts to succeed in this area, we recommend the international community join us in taking the following steps:
First: We must enhance our systems that detect and analyze hate speech so we can better understand how it proliferates and evolves. Partnerships with technology companies are crucial for identifying – and then removing – online hate speech.
Second: We need to raise awareness of the threat posed by hate speech.Media campaigns and education can be powerful tools to help people recognize and reject hateful messages.
Third: We must strengthen our legal frameworks to combat discrimination, in addition to protecting places of worship. In this regard, we welcome the resolution titled: “Promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites” that was adopted on January 21st 2021.
Fourth: We need to strengthen partnerships with religious leaders who are critical to fostering interreligious and intercultural collaboration. A successful example of this was the call from the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity for a global day of prayer on May 14th last year to demonstrate unity against the pandemic and highlight our togetherness.
Finally, we must create an environment where places of worship of different faiths can peacefully co-exist. In this effort, the UAE is constructing the Abrahamic Family House, which will consist of a mosque, church, synagogue, and educational facility.
As we continue to launch initiatives to foster interfaith harmony, we affirm the need to mainstream regional and global efforts. The UNAOC and broader UN system can count on the UAE as a partner in promoting interfaith and interreligious dialogue to maintain international peace and security.