Swedish Statement at the Security Council Arria Formula Meeting on Religious Leaders for a Safe World
Remarks delivered by Ambassador Olof Skoog on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Arria Formula Meeting on Religious Leaders for a Safe World, 24 April 2018, New York.
Thank you, Mr Chair,
And thank you to Kazakhstan and the Alliance of Civilisations for organising today's meeting, which we believe is an important initiative to help broaden the conversation on how we sustain peace through deeper tolerance and interreligious respect through dialogue. Let me also thank Vice-Minister Aryn and Mr Al-Nasser for their contributions this afternoon.
In his address to the General Assembly last September, the Secretary-General identified terrorism as one of the seven threats and challenges that are undermining our efforts for peace and development. The response has to be national and international; done with determination and cooperation. We also know that counter-terrorism measures need to be conducted in full respect for international law, human rights and the rule of law in order to be fully successful. Governments alone cannot successfully address these challenges. Civil society, media, academia and religious and traditional leaders all have very important roles to play.
I very much share the points made by my UK colleague on the need for the respect for human rights. Terrorist ideologies often hijack religious discourse to further their objectives and rely on distorted tenets of religions to justify their actions. Responding to such ideologies requires a whole of community response. As highlighted in the Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, faith and community leaders play a critical role in preventing violent extremism by mentoring vulnerable members of their communities to enable them to reject such violent ideologies. The Plan of Action also underlines the important role religious leaders' play in providing for intra- and interfaith dialogue to promote tolerance and understanding within and between communities. This is particularly important as threats closely linked to violent extremism often also include hatred and acts of violence rooted in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, the persecution of opposing ethnic and religious minorities and groups, and discriminatory laws and practices. The persecution of Christians in the Middle East has escalated in recent years. We remain deeply worried about the situation for Rohingya in Myanmar, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Sweden has a long history of engagement with religious actors – domestically and internationally. This engagement aims to support a global culture based on dialogue, human rights, equality – including gender equality and for LGBTQI individuals - , peaceful coexistence and freedom of religion and belief. The Swedish institute in Alexandria in Egypt is deeply engaged in bringing actors together in search of ways out of conflict, and to establish common ground. We have also supported the 'Religious Track' of the Cyprus Peace Process, which brings religious communities from across the divide closer together; building confidence and making the process more inclusive. The dialogue also supports human rights and freedom of religion for Christians as well as Muslims. Providing access to religious sites for worship across the divided island, joint declarations in support of the peace process and condemning violence against women are some of the concrete contributions resulting from this religious leaders' dialogue in Cyprus.
Responding to the threat of terrorism not only requires solidarity within countries, but also between countries. We remain fully engaged in the various multilateral platforms working for co-existence, tolerance and peaceful solutions, including the Alliance of Civilisations, the Union for the Mediterranean and the Anna Lindh Foundation. We are engaging in an important dialogue with the OIC – and appreciate their work to combat violent extremism in the Muslim world. The role of the Alliance of Civilisations – and its focus on media, civil society and youth – is of particular importance.
A final thought. The aim of those who engage in violent extremism is to create fear and mistrust within communities and between countries. However, just over a year ago, in response to such a violent act in a central street of Stockholm, we saw the exact opposite of surrender and division. In fact, rather that fear, there were acts of courage and incredible bravery on the part of ordinary individuals. The message from Stockholm – repeated in so many other instances of terror across the world - is this: The resilience of the human spirit and the resistance of a strong, unified, open and free society means that those who seek to sow terror will never truly succeed.