Religious leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region, including Sri Lanka, met in Bangkok to develop a regional strategy for the prevention of incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes.
Religious leaders and actors from thirteen countries took part in the meeting from the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths. The meeting was organised by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect in collaboration with the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Former Colombo Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera, WCC representative, noted how the Asia-Pacific region “is today dangerously influenced by hatred and division […] Some of this is caused by religion.” Bishop De Chickera called on participants to join hands to counter incitement to violence.
This was the fifth and last regional meeting of the “Fez Process”, an initiative led by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protectin partnership with KAICIID, the WCC, the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and Member States. Each regional meeting has resulted in context specific strategies for the prevention of incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes, based on a review of the Fez Plan of Action, a plan of action developed by religious leaders from around the world at an initial meeting in Fez, Morocco, in April 2015. The results of the five regional meetings will inform the final version of the Fez Plan of Action, which will be launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York in early 2017.
As is the case in all regions of the world, religion has been manipulated for political reasons in the Asia-Pacific region to incite violence and, in the worst cases, atrocity crimes. “While religious leaders can be part of the problem, we have seen how they can also be part of the solution,” stated Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
“Religious leaders can be – and have been – extremely effective in reducing tensions and preventing violence. Their authority and capacity to influence their followers is unique.”
Along the same lines, Prof. Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Senior Adviser at KAICIID Dialogue Center stated: “The results of this meeting, especially the detailed action plan developed by the participants, is impressive and reflects the strong commitment to jointly confront hate speech and incitement.”
The plan of action developed during the meeting set out a range of actions that religious leaders from the Asia-Pacific region can take to prevent incitement to violence. They include to promote peace and security as well as respect for fundamental human rights and principles, encourage inter-religious collaboration on religious and non-religious issues, prevent and counter hate speech and incitement to violence, including through increased engagementat the community level and with youth, strengthen collaboration with traditional and new media to prevent and counter the dissemination of hate speech and incitement, and strengthen secular and religious education curricula.
The Plan of Action also includes recommendations for States,the United Nations and the Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN), as well as to new and traditional media. (Colombo Gazette)