Religious leaders critical to halting incitement to violence: UN chief

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Religious leaders. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The voice, authority and example of religious leaders are critical to preventing incitement to violence, the UN Secretary-General said on Friday.

António Guterres was speaking at UN Headquarters at the launch of a global initiative which aims to prevent future genocide.

Known as the Fez Plan of Action, it is the result of two years of consultations with religious leaders, faith-based organizations and others from across the world.

Dianne Penn reports.

Addressing a room full of religious leaders and diplomats, Mr Guterres recalled his years heading the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) helping people uprooted from their homes.

He said for many in this situation, faith is "an anchor in a stormy sea of fear, loss, separation and destitution" and is central to hope and resilience.

Yet, he said, around the world, religion is being "twisted" and "cynically manipulated" to justify incitement to violence and discrimination.

The Secretary-General added that there also has been "an alarming rise" in hate speech, whether offline or online, which sows the seeds of suspicion, mistrust and intolerance.

"And so it is no surprise that hate speech is one of the most common warning signs of atrocity crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Since we know the warning signs, we can also take early action to prevent these crimes. The voice, authority and example of religious leaders are critical in this regard.  This conviction led to the development of the initiative we launch today."

The Fez Plan of Action sets out a broad range of ways in which religious leaders can prevent incitement to violence and contribute to peace and stability.

It also stresses the importance of women and youth in all prevention activities.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’26″


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