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G20 Interfaith Forum
“Time to Heal: Peace among Cultures, Understanding between Religions”

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

11 September 2021

Dear friends,

I welcome the focus of this Forum on promoting peace among cultures, and understanding between religions. This is a profound and vital topic – one that is of the highest importance for the work of promoting and protecting human rights. Indeed, the continuity of your annual discussions since 2014 testifies to their relevance to the multilateral agenda, and the keen interest they elicit from interfaith networks.

Our experience in the human rights community is that thematic forums – such as our Forum on Minority Issues, our Social Forum and many others – can contribute to widening civic space, promoting mutual understanding and enriching governmental deliberations with grass-roots contributions.

You have clearly recognised the many linkages between our fields. The G20 Interfaith Forums in Buenos Aires and Tokyo recommended that “G20 countries should support the UN-based initiative to reduce incitement to hatred, by supporting religious leaders and faith-based actors in fulfilling their human rights responsibilities, as summarized in the Beirut Declaration and the 18 commitments of the ‘Faith for Rights’ program”.

I am also pleased that in November, the European Union Gender Action Plan III emphasised that “the EU should support mobilisation of religious actors for gender equality in line with the Faith for Rights framework”.

Our engagement with faith-based actors has accelerated in recent years, and during the pandemic we have greatly broadened our contacts through online exchanges. The latest experience consisted of a peer-to-peer learning programme in follow-up to the Global Pledge for Action by Religious Actors and Faith-Based Organizations to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic in Collaboration with the United Nations. This was an initiative I took together with the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. And it taught us that we need to shift from discussion of generalities to specific, concrete actions.

I am also grateful that these encounters between faith-based actors and human rights experts have produced snapshots of peer-to-peer learning points, making their discussions accessible to others who could not participate in the live events.

Looking at this forum’s programme, I am struck by its breadth of topics and the diversity of participants. This inter-disciplinary approach can be very enriching, and I look forward to your perspectives and thoughts on what multilateral institutions, and human rights bodies, can do better to uphold justice, equality and dignity for all.

I know that we share many, very deep concerns. I am convinced that tolerance and mutual respect among cultures, faiths and individuals are essential to justice and to peace. They also encourage the growth of more inclusive, and therefore more resilient, societies which are able to draw on the full contributions of all their members.

We also share our understanding that the continued pandemic crisis is creating cascading waves of harm, particularly for members of our society who are in the most vulnerable situations. The resemblance between “building back better” as a UN priority, and the central theme of the Bologna G20 Interfaith Forum – “A Time to Heal” – is inspiring.

I, too, hope that we can soon turn to healing the physical, social and emotional wounds created by the pandemic – healing despair, violence and hatred against our fellow human beings.

The Beirut Declaration on Faith for Rights notes that “war starts in the mind, and is cultivated by a reasoning fuelled by often hidden advocacy of hatred. Positive speech is ... the healing tool of reconciliation and peacebuilding in hearts and minds.”

I hope that human rights will be the solid foundation that can further our time of healing.

Thank you.