On 27 March 1953, the Canadian Government presented seven nickel-silver doors for the General Assembly building. On the exterior of each one of them are four panels in bas-relief symbolizing fraternity (inset), peace, justice, and truth.
Photo:©United Nations/DN

As we commemorate the International Day of Human Fraternity, let us commit to do more to promote cultural and religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Human fraternity for peace and cooperation

There is deep concern regarding acts that advocate religious hatred and, thereby, undermine the spirit of tolerance and respect for diversity, especially at a time when the  world  confronts  the unprecedented  crisis  caused  by  the  Coronavirus  disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which requires a global response based on unity, solidarity and renewed multilateral cooperation.

And in these times we need — perhaps more than ever before — to recognize the valuable contribution of people of all religions, or beliefs, to humanity and the contribution that dialogue among all religious groups can make towards an improved awareness and understanding of the common values shared by all humankind.

We also need to underline the importance of raising awareness about different cultures and religions, or beliefs, and the promotion of tolerance, which involves societal acceptance and respect for religious and cultural diversity, including with regard to religious expression. Education, in particular at school, should contribute in a meaningful way to promoting tolerance and the elimination of discrimination based on religion or belief.

Furthermore, we must acknowledge that  tolerance,  pluralistic  tradition,  mutual  respect  and  the diversity of religions and beliefs promote human fraternity. Thus, it is imperative that we encourage activities  aimed  at  promoting  interreligious  and  intercultural dialogue in  order to  enhance peace  and social  stability,  respect for  diversity and mutual respect and to create, at the global level, and also at the regional, national and local levels, an environment conducive to peace and mutual understanding.

Within that frame, the General-Assembly took note of  all  international,  regional,  national  and  local  initiatives,  as appropriate,  as  well as  efforts  by religious leaders, to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and in this regard took note also of the meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayyib, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, which resulted in the signing of the document entitled “Human fraternity for world peace and living together”.

2021 Theme: A Pathway to the Future

This year, for the very first time, we are celebrating the International Day of Human Fraternity in the context of World Interfaith Harmony Week, providing an opportunity to highlight the principles and values included in the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and living Together” and explore good practices towards its implementation as a pathway to the future, as we rebuild a better world. The UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to the UN, as well as the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, is organizing an event titled "A Pathway to the Future" to celebrate this international day.

Background

Following the devastation of the Second World War, the United Nations was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. One of its purposes is to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems, including by promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.

In 1999, The General-Assembly adopted, by resolution 53/243, the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, which serves as the universal mandate for the international community, particularly the United Nations system, to promote a culture of peace and non-violence that benefits all of humanity, including future generations.

The declaration came about as a result of the long-held and cherished concept — contained within the Constitution of UNESCO — that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." The Declaration embraces the principle that peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process, in which dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

On 20 October 2010, the General Assembly in resolution A/RES/65/5 pointed out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and established World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith. It further recognized the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people.

At the core of all the faith systems and traditions is the recognition that we are all in this together and that we need to love and support one another to live in harmony and peace in an environmentally sustainable world. Our world continues to be beset by conflict and intolerance with rising number of refugees and the internally displaced in a hostile and unwelcoming world around them. We are also, unfortunately, witnessing messages of hate spreading discord among people. The need for spiritual guidance has never been greater. It is imperative that we double our efforts to spread the message of good neighborliness based on our common humanity, a message shared by all faith traditions.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity, with resolution 75/200.

What is the Culture of Peace?

A culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and modes of behaviour and ways of life based on:

  • Respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and cooperation;
  • Full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States and non-intervention in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law;
  • Full respect for and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • Commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts;
  • Efforts to meet the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations;
  • Respect for and promotion of the right to development; Respect for and promotion of equal rights and opportunities for women and men;
  • Respect for and promotion of the right of everyone to freedom of expression, opinion and information;
  • Adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, cooperation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations; and fostered by an enabling national and international environment conducive to peace.

Source: A/RES/53/243

While visiting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on 19 December 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “In these turbulent and trying times, we must stand together for peace and harmony.” Mr. Guterres conveyed his “deep appreciation” for the Catholic leader’s “extraordinary service in promoting interfaith relations,” including his landmark declaration with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on human fraternity for world peace and living together. “This declaration is extremely important when we see such dramatic attacks on religious freedom and the lives of believers,” said the Secretary-General.

 

 

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.