7 February 2012
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, at Interfaith Harmony Week Event, Says Common Cause

in Mutual Respect for Shared Values Is Only Way to Unite Nations, Peoples


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.

Today we need such strength as never before.  Economic, social, environmental and humanitarian challenges are straining the fabric of society in all regions.  The interfaith community has an opportunity — and a responsibility — to speak out against extremism, to advance tolerance, to stand for social justice, dignity and mutual understanding.

The United Nations, for its part, is very active in this regard.  The recent forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in Doha is one such example of our efforts to further dialogue and tolerance.  Many United Nations agencies, funds, programmes and departments collaborate with faith-based groups.  A United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Engaging Faith-based Organizations for the Millennium Development Goals is devoted to establishing synergies that will magnify our work.

Faith-based organizations can also form a key component of the Secretary-General’s policy of developing transformative multi-stakeholder partnerships over the coming five years.  Today’s event is testament to the benefits we can all derive from coming together and learning from each other.

Our world is blessed with countless riches — from the teachings of great religions to the traditions of indigenous communities.  World Interfaith Harmony Week is our opportunity to celebrate this diversity and to highlight our shared commitment to peaceful, inclusive, sustainable and equitable development for all.

I wish you a successful event and a joyful week.

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For information media • not an official record