Moderate Majority Must Not Be Silent Majority, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Urging All to Combat Intolerance

1 October 2012

Moderate Majority Must Not Be Silent Majority, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Urging All to Combat Intolerance

1 October 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Moderate Majority Must Not be Silent Majority, Deputy Secretary-General Tells

Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Urging All to Combat Intolerance

(Delayed in transmission.)

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as delivered, at the Appeal of Conscience Foundation annual awards dinner, in New York, 27 September:

It is a pleasure to join you.  I bring warm greetings to all of you from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  He also sends his thanks to Rabbi [Arthur] Schneier for his friendship and strong commitment to the United Nations and offers his congratulations to tonight’s awards recipients.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation merits recognition for almost half a century of inspiring efforts to promote religious freedom and international understanding.  Such work is valuable at all times — but it is especially in important today’s turbulent world.

As the Secretary-General told the Member States as they gathered for this year’s general debate, in recent weeks “a disgraceful act of great insensitivity has led to justifiable offense and unjustifiable violence.”

It is now our common task to mend the social fabric that has been torn by those who provoke and those who exploit the provocation by blind violence.  We cannot afford any more such divisive and destructive episodes, which can undo years of interfaith outreach in the instant it takes to light a match, utter an insult or pull a trigger.

This is a time when we need to come together to heal and build.  This work includes safeguarding freedoms of expression, assembly and religion enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  But it also encompasses special efforts to stop provocations and not succumb to violent reactions.

Part of our response is the UN Alliance of Civilizations where you, Rabbi Schneier, have an important role.  The Alliance is now mobilizing its global networks to further tolerance and restraint and counter extremism and hateful acts.  Here we all have a task.  As the Secretary-General said earlier this week, the moderate majority must not be a silent majority.

The world faces so many serious problems — conflicts, poverty, hunger climate change and serious violations of human rights.  The answers lie in more international cooperation, not less — and in our ability to work together, across the lines of faith, ethnicity and nationality.  Good international solutions must be seen as solutions of national interest.

During this busy week at the United Nations, we have moved ahead on many fronts.  We have focused high-level attention on the crisis in the Sahel and the worsening situation in Syria, both of which feature dangerous sectarian dimensions.  We have sought to support democratic transitions in the Arab world, Myanmar and elsewhere.  Protections for minorities will be crucial as the new outlines of those rapidly changing societies take shape.  And we have sought to forge new partnerships for development. 

Yesterday, the Secretary-General launched a new initiative, Education First — one of the main vehicles to promote global citizenship.  Education is about more than literacy; it has a central role to play in helping people to forge open and tolerant societies through knowledge and global awareness.

The test will be what we do when this week of speeches and meetings ends.  The Secretary-General, our colleagues and I are determined to see an active follow-up together with Member States and other stakeholders.  We will count on the leadership and support from all of you in making the world a safer, more prosperous, more just place for all.

I am sure, you, Rabbi Schneier and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation will be part of these efforts to achieve a life of dignity for all.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.