Syrian, Iraqi Governments, Armed Groups, Have ‘Moral and Legal’ Duty to Protect Civilians of Any Religious or Ethnic Affiliation, Says Secretary-General

SG/SM/16347
19 November 2014

Syrian, Iraqi Governments, Armed Groups, Have ‘Moral and Legal’ Duty to Protect Civilians of Any Religious or Ethnic Affiliation, Says Secretary-General

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the conference: “United against Violence in the Name of Religion: Protecting Religious and Cultural Diversity in Iraq and Syria”, as delivered by Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, in Vienna, today:

I thank His Excellency Secretary-General Faisal bin Muaammar and commend the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue for organizing this timely conference.

You come together at a critical time.  Religious and cultural diversity are under sustained attack in Iraq and Syria.  Communities that have lived and worshipped side by side for centuries are being driven from their homes and subjected to unspeakable brutality.

In too many other parts of the world, religion and faith are being distorted and abused to justify atrocious violence.  World religions founded upon peaceful principles are being cynically manipulated by extremists whose actions undermine the very teachings they profess to uphold.

Against this disturbing trend, I welcome the constructive efforts of religious leaders to promote inclusion, forgiveness and equality.

In Iraq, minority communities and others have been the systematic target of Da’esh, which has committed acts which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  I welcome the establishment of an inclusive Iraqi Government and look forward to its efforts to promote national reconciliation while also seeking regional engagement.  This is crucial to ending terrorism and the conditions that breed it.

In Syria, international support for a political solution to the bitter conflict is critical if conflict and the sectarian tensions that have grown with it are to be ended.  

The Syrian and Iraqi Governments, as well as all armed groups in areas under their effective control, have the moral and legal responsibility to protect all civilians, regardless of their religion or ethnic affiliation.

The United Nations is dedicated to defending freedom of belief, fostering interreligious dialogue and advancing greater understanding among peoples, including through the Alliance of Civilizations initiative.  I look forward to working with all partners to establish peace and stability in the region through dialogue and determined action.  Thank you for your commitment, and please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

For information media. Not an official record.