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NYPM 010-2008

18 APRIL 2008






NEW YORK—The Philippine interfaith initiative at the United Nations got a boost from no less than Pope Benedict XVI who urged the General Assembly on Friday (18 April 2008) to support inter-religious dialogue as a means to help the world body achieve its goals of peace, development and human rights.


Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr., Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations, led Filipino diplomats in lauding the Pope's reference to inter-religious dialogue during his address before the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly, saying this underscores the relevance and urgency of the Philippine initiative that was launched four years ago.


"The subject of interfaith dialogue is very dear to the Philippines because it is the leading proponent of this initiative in the United Nations," said Ambassador Davide shortly after hearing the Holy Father's address before his audience of diplomats and UN officials. "The Pope's message goes to show that the Philippines is proceeding on the right track."


The envoy said that for almost 60 years, the UN had avoided the consideration of the role of religions in the attainment of the goals of the UN, until the General Assembly adopted in 2004 the resolution introduced by the Philippines on interfaith dialogue as another option in realizing a durable peace.


In what is only the third time that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church addressed the General Assembly, the Pope said the United Nations should support inter-religious dialogue "just as it supports dialogue in other areas of human activity."


"Dialogue should be recognized as the means by which the various components of society can articulate their point of view and build consensus around the truth concerning particular values or goals," the Pope said.


"The United Nations can count on the results of dialogue between religions and can draw fruit from the willingness of believers to place their experiences at the service of the common good," the Holy Father said.  "Their task is to propose a vision of faith not in terms of intolerance, discrimination and conflict but in terms of complete respect for truth, coexistence, rights and reconciliation."


"The United Nations remains a privileged setting in which the Church is committed to contributing her experience "of humanity," developed over the centuries among peoples of every race and culture and placing it at the disposal of all members of the international community," the Pontiff  said.


Ambassador Davide noted that all the topics discussed by the Holy Father in his address are multilaterally agreed agenda items with the exception of interfaith dialogue, the only state-driven initiative highlighted by the Pontiff that has gained broad support from member-states, including the Holy See.


"As the initiator of this dialogue process, the Philippines is urging all countries to take advantage of this opportunity and show their support in the various initiatives of the Philippines in putting forward this useful, vibrant and dynamic alternative," Ambassador Davide said.


The Philippines is the recognized proponent of interfaith dialogue in the United Nations having launched this initiative in 2004 with the Tripartite Forum on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace followed by the Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace. 


The Philippines also shepherded four General Assembly resolutions in interfaith dialogue, including the resolution entitled "Promotion of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace that was co-sponsored by 58 countries and adopted by consensus by General Assembly in December.


Among the salient features of the resolution, are the declaration of the year 2010 as the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures; the designation of the Office for ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Support and Coordination under the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as the focal unit in the UN Secretariat on Interreligious and Intercultural Matters; and the emphasis given to the need to sustain the momentum generated by the 4-5 October 2007 High-Level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace. 


According to Ambassador Davide, the Philippine interfaith initiative stands out among several other similar initiatives in the UN, such as the Alliance of Civilizations, because it is the only one that calls for the involvement of the most influential sector of society—the religious and faith leaders. ###



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