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World Interfaith Harmony Week
1 - 7 February 2013

World Interfaith Harmony Week

Mr. Burniat (Belgium)

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union on resolution 65/5, entitled “World Interfaith Harmony Week”, which was just adopted.

The European Union would like to extend its thanks to the delegation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the constructive spirit in which it led the consultation process on the resolution, as well as for its readiness to incorporate in the resolution a number of suggestions put forward by the European Union.

The European Union welcomes any call for dialogue, peace, tolerance and mutual understanding among peoples and nations. It is in this spirit that the European Union joined the consensus on the resolution based on the following understanding of some fundamental issues raised therein.

It is an established fact that religions, beliefs and faith cannot be considered actors under international law. Therefore, the European Union joined the consensus in the understanding that the reference to dialogue among religions, faiths and beliefs in the second preambular paragraph and paragraph 1 refers to dialogue among individuals with different religions, faiths and beliefs. As in other areas, any obligation of States with regard to religious affairs exists not vis-àvis any religion, faith or belief as such, but solely towards individuals or groups of individuals and in full respect for both the individual’s freedom of religion or belief and the independence of religious institutions in matters of belief.

The European Union is therefore of the view that the fourth preambular paragraph and paragraph 3 cannot be read as giving States a mandate to influence the manner in which individuals relate to their faith or beliefs or to impose their views on the substance or manner of any interreligious or intra-religious discourse.

Furthermore, some European Union member States have regulations and policies whereby the State is strictly separated from any religion. Therefore, we do not feel compelled to intervene in religious discourses in places of worship. However, the European Union fully subscribes to the wish expressed in the resolution for respect and understanding among followers of all religions, faiths and beliefs.

While acknowledging the importance of interreligious dialogue, the European Union wishes to state that both interreligious and intra religious dialogues are additional and complementary components of intercultural dialogue and a culture of peace. Religion or faith may constitute part of the multiple identities of individuals, but it is our understanding that by solely addressing one of the sources of identity, the resolution does not wish to imply the lesser importance of the others. In this respect, the European Union would like to highlight the roles of UNESCO in promoting all aspects of intercultural dialogue and of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in promoting understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions.

Finally, the European Union wishes to state its understanding that the call for interfaith harmony expressed in the resolution and for dialogue among religions, faiths and beliefs in the second preambular paragraph and in paragraph 1 is not limited to specific monotheistic religions or beliefs, for example, but is in fact meant to include all followers of any religion, faith or belief in a universal and inclusive manner.