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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. LAURO L. BAJA, JR.
to introduce draft resolution entitled:
59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
I have the honor to introduce to this august Assembly the Philippine draft resolution entitled “Promotion of cooperation among religions” contained in document A/59/L.15 under agenda item 35 on Culture of Peace.
The brevity of our draft resolution is in conformity with the decision of this Assembly to streamline all resolutions.
Although the draft resolution is self-explanatory, we will, nevertheless, hold informal consultations soon in keeping with practice.
The Philippines introduced a draft resolution last year on the same subject. We let the concept germinate in the minds of delegations and in their capitals for a year.
Recent positive developments have reinforced our belief that it is now opportune to introduce a revised version during this session. Let me just highlight three of these encouraging developments.
First, the Panel of Eminent Persons created by the Secretary-General last year to review the relationship between civil society and the United Nations reported, among others, that “religious and spiritual groups deserve greater attention by the United Nations because of their explicit representational role or wide membership.”
Allow me to cite five important functions of religious and spiritual groups mentioned in paragraph 156 of the Panel’s work, also known as the Cardoso Report: (1) they provide powerful community leadership, (2) they shape public opinion, (3) they provide advice on ethical matters, (4) they facilitate reconciliation between conflicting communities and (5) they identify the needs of vulnerable groups.
Nations are aware of these important functions of religious and spiritual groups. The reiteration by the Panel of Eminent Persons comes as a reminder for us of the universal understanding on the need for the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance.
Second, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made significant conclusions in its report (A/59/201) issued in accordance with resolution 58/128 entitled “Promotion of religious and cultural understanding, harmony and cooperation.”
Allow me to quote a few of the UNESCO conclusions:
“A particularly important dimension of the dialogue among civilizations is interreligious dialogue, which implies a dialogue both among and within a single religion. Indeed the key issue raised by the dialogue among civilizations is the place of ethics in the relationship between societies, peoples and individuals.” (paragraph 33)
“In this context, world religions and beliefs could contribute tremendously in the promotion of a culture of peace if they resolve to, on the one hand, collectively face the problems confronting the world today, such as terrorism and sectarian violence, while, on the other hand, practice tolerance within their respective religious communities and in their inter-faith relations.” (paragraph 35)
Third, the Heads of State or Government of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) decided at their summit early this month in Hanoi, co-chaired by Vietnam and the Netherlands, to launch an initiative entitled “Inter-Faith Dialogue.” ASEM is an inter-regional grouping of member states of the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The theme of this landmark initiative of ASEM, sponsored by Indonesia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is “Building inter-faith harmony within the international community.” Its objectives are (1) to foster mutual respect among all faith and religions in Asia and Europe, (2) propose recommendations to actualize inter-faith harmony within the international community, and (3) enhance the role of religious civil society in the conduct of second track diplomacy.
Her Excellency, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, at the last ASEM summit strongly supported the Indonesian and British proposal for an inter-faith dialogue to help prevent terrorism and to promote religious understanding through inter-faith dialogue as a component of the dialogue among civilizations and cultures.
In this regard, the President called for the activation of the ASEM Caucus in the United Nations to push the idea forward.
All these developments validate the vision of the Speaker of the Philippine Congress, Jose de Venecia, who proposed to the leaders of the US, EU and Asia as early as two years ago as a subject whose time has come for serious consideration and action. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Alberto G. Romulo highlighted this theme in his address to the General Assembly last month.
These three developments underpin the importance of the draft resolution my delegation is introducing today.
The Philippines has publicly recognized the important functions of religious and spiritual groups as outlined by the Panel of Eminent Persons on UN-Civil Society Relations. In fact, this recognition has been translated by the Philippines into real action when it harnessed the services of an inter-faith group in helping solve our problem in southern Philippines.
The Philippines, based on its own experience, strongly endorses the conclusions of UNESCO on the vital role religions play in the dialogue among civilizations and in the promotion of the culture of peace.
There are other developments stressing the urgent need for cooperation among religions.
Senegal is reported to organize soon an international conference of all religions to seek their views on how they can contribute in alleviating pressing international concerns.
The religious leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia reportedly met to help carve a lasting peace between their two countries.
The President of Spain proposed during last month’s General Debate the creation of an Alliance of Civilizations between western and the Arab and Muslim worlds and intends to submit a proposal to the Secretary-General for the establishment of a High Level Group to consider the matter.
In our host country, the United States of America, there are inter-religious fellowships, which are successfully cooperating to help the homeless and address other social problems.
Other countries have their own inter-faith mechanisms, whether government-supported or through non-governmental organizations.
All these positive national experiences have to be known and be shared. This is the reason why the Philippines is proposing in its draft resolution that the Secretary-General seek the views of governments and other bodies on how cooperation among religions can be promoted and further enhanced.
In conclusion, allow me to invite again the attention of this distinguished body to the Declaration issued by the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in Kazakhstan.
They expressed their common desire for peace, aversion to violence, support for development, promotion of harmony and mutual understanding, and cooperation for the avoidance of conflicts and the fostering of good will – the raison d’etre of A/59/L.15.
I thank you, Mr. President.
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