Religions for Peace Advances 10th World Assembly Commitment to Safeguard Holy Sites

(20-27 September 2019 | United Nations Plaza, New York, USA) During the United Nations General Assembly, Rev. Kyoichi Sugino [Acting Secretary General, RfP]Prof. Azza Karam [Secretary General Elect, RfPand His Excellency Miguel Ángel Moratinos [High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)] offered addresses during an event co-organized by RfP USAentitled, “United to Confront Violence Against Places of Worship.” RfP‘s firm commitment to, and long history of, working to protect holy sites and people of faith globally was strongly emphasized.
H.E. Dr. Mustafa Ceric [Raisu-L-Ulama Emeritus, Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Honorary President,RfP], Ms. Sharon Rosen [Global Director of Religious Engagement, Search for Common Ground], Sr. Agatha Chikelue [Chair, International Women’s Coordinating Committee, RfP] and H.H. Samdech Tep Vong [Great Supreme Patriarch, Kingdom of Cambodia; Co-President, RfP] address the delegates of the 10th World Assembly during the Ring for Peace ceremony, which highlighted the urgent need to protect holy sites
Rev. Sugino highlighted RfP‘s long standing history of multi-religious advocacy and action to holy sites, including the “Universal Code of Conduct for Protection of Holy Sites,” produced by RfP, Search for Common Ground (SFCG), One World in Dialogue and the Oslo Center for Human Rights.  He also highlighted an innovative project spearheaded by RfP‘s Interreligious Council (IRC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina (IRC-BiH), where IRC-BiH is implementing a project entitled, “Protecting Holy Places.” 
The overall goal of this project is to build trust and improve relations across religious and ethnic communities, focusing on the protection of religious artifacts and holy sites. Its key elements are the systematic reporting of attacks, joint visits of religious leaders to holy sites, multi-religious public condemnations of any act of violence and the active engagement of stakeholders such as the police, media and local political leaders. RfPHonorary Presidents have represented their respective religious communities in the fostering of this increased understanding.
Rev. Sugino also introduced creative mechanisms employed by RfP and partners to protect holy sites globally. IRC-Indonesia-RfP and SFCG, “Search” Indonesia are working with young artists developing comic books, documentaries and social media campaigns to facilitate discussions about holy sites to a wide, young audience. IRC-Sri Lanka-RfP and Search Sri Lanka are conducting workshops with religious leaders, state actors and community members to develop unique “Attack Response Plans” for eight conflict-prone districts. Youth of RfP Myanmar have initiated a project cleaning places of worship in order to interact with these spaces and deepen multi-religious bonds and understanding.  Prof. Azza Karam addressed the audience and highlighted the need to recognize individual accountability and responsibility for broken and unresponsive institutions. She called upon all those present saying, “As religious leaders, we have to model an example of love to create the reality we want to manifest.” She emphasized that religious leaders have a key role to play in promoting the tolerance and behavior necessary to ensure that holy sites are protected.
In his address, H.E. Moratinos thanked RfP for the support provided when formulating UNAOC’s Plan to Safeguard Religious Sites: “In Unity & Solidarity for Safe & Peaceful Worship.” This resource was officially launched by H.E. António Guterres on 12 September 2019. RfP has offered deep support and collaboration towards the creation of this plan and H.E. Moratinos expressed his hope that RfPwill continue its long history of mobilizing religious communities to protect holy sites.
The RfP coalition continuously indicates its dedication to common, multi-religious action for the protection of holy sites. RfP strongly encourages our network and affiliates to utilize and adapt the following resources for the safeguarding of religious sites within their own countries and communities:
– Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites
– United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites: In Unity and Solidarity for Safe and Peaceful Worship
– United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech
– Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes