Anti-genocide expert urges full support for peace efforts by religious leaders

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Adama Dieng. (Screen grab from UNTV)

Religious and faith-based organizations should be supported in their efforts to sustain peace, the UN's expert on genocide prevention has said.

Adama Dieng highlighted the importance of these "grassroots peacemakers" during a meeting held at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday.

Dianne Penn reports.

We all live in societies made up of people from different ethnicities and faiths, said Mr Dieng, who addressed the gathering via a video recording.

Although this makes for rich communities, he said it can also spark tensions which could fuel conflict and violent extremism, and even lead to atrocity crimes or crimes against humanity.

And while primary responsibility for conflict-prevention lies with states, Mr Dieng said religious and faith-based organizations can also play a part.

"Religious leaders play an important leadership role and they together with religious and faith-based organizations have a responsibility to contribute to the building of peaceful, inclusive and cohesive societies that are resilient to conflict, violent extremism and atrocity crimes. They can reach out to and influence large numbers of people, provide support during emergencies, respond to the needs of marginalized communities, as well as address grievances as soon as they emerge and advocate for the rights of their communities. They are grassroots peacemakers and therefore need our full support in their daily activities to sustain peace."

Mr Dieng said that a UN plan of action on the role of religious leaders in preventing incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes would be launched in the coming months.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’43″

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