30 May 2012

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

In Message, Secretary-General Urges Religious Leaders to Use Power of Dialogue

to ‘Celebrate Our Diversity and Strengthen Our Common Bonds’


Following is the message of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the fourth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, delivered by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, in Astana, Kazakhstan, 30 May:

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at the fourth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.  I thank Kazakhstan for bringing together this influential group to engage in a constructive and forward-looking dialogue.

We live in tumultuous times.  Poverty, hunger, disease, conflict and other global threats demand a concerted international response.  As religious leaders, you can help address these problems through heart-to-heart exchanges with people in your communities.  You can join forces to demonstrate that there is strength in diversity, and that no matter what a person’s faith may be, all share a common humanity.

The United Nations deeply values diversity and dialogue.  Our Alliance of Civilizations is leading global efforts to bridge divides and generate understanding.  As you meet, I am attending a Partners Forum for the Alliance of Civilizations in Istanbul.

The Alliance has long been a leader in harnessing the power of youth to overcome cultural divides and bring about positive change.  Events across the Arab region and around the world have reaffirmed the power of youth to generate a groundswell of support for democracy and cross-cultural solidarity.

The historic elections last week in Egypt were an example of how citizens, led by many young people and women, can use the power of peaceful protest to effect a meaningful democratic transition.

While the ideals of freedom from oppression and want are timeless, new technologies, particularly social networks, are accelerating action for change.

But the same information technology that helps people to connect can also be used to divide and spread hate.  Our challenge is to harness the power of modern communications to combat these trends.

I urge you, as religious leaders, to take a strong stance on the human rights of all people through your engagement at this Congress and in cyberspace, where you can reach large audiences with a message of understanding.

I wish you great success in using the power of dialogue to celebrate our diversity and strengthen our common bonds.

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For information media • not an official record