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Religious leaders can take lead on intercultural dialogue, says Ban Ki-moon

Religious leaders can take lead on intercultural dialogue, says Ban Ki-moon

Religious and community leaders can play a leading role in promoting constructive intercultural dialogue that can help to bridge the widening gulf between peoples and nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a conference on the issue today.

In a message to the conference on “The Religious Dimension of Intercultural Dialogue,” held in San Marino, the Secretary-General urged the leaders to use their “tremendous influence… to teach your followers to actively learn about other cultures, societies and religions.”

Warning that participants were gathering “at a time of rising intolerance and growing cross-cultural tensions,” exacerbated by events from acts of terrorism to offending statements or publications, Mr. Ban said the divide between communities and countries has the potential to undermine global peace and stability.

“Today there is an urgent need to rebuild bridges and to engage in a sustained and constructive intercultural dialogue, one that stresses common values and shared aspirations. People of faith can play a leading role in such an exchange. They can stress the core beliefs and ideals found in all the great faith traditions: compassion, solidarity, respect for life, and kindness towards others.”

The message was delivered on Mr. Ban’s behalf by Staffan de Mistura, Director of the UN System Staff College.

Mr. Ban’s message added that the San Marino conference would also help the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative launched in 2005 with the support of Turkey and Spain to promote understanding between different religious, ethnic and national communities.

The Alliance’s High-Level group issued a report late last year calling for a series of measures in education, media, youth and migration to build bridges between different communities and promote a culture of respect.

Last week Mr. Ban said he would soon appoint a High Representative to assist him on the issue and to defuse crises that emerge at the intersection of politics and culture.