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Diversity should be celebrated, Secretary-General tells scholars’ gathering

Diversity should be celebrated, Secretary-General tells scholars’ gathering

In the face of increasing intercultural and inter-religious tensions, it is necessary to remember that diversity is not a threat, but a virtue, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a gathering of scholars in Beijing today.

“It is time to explain that different religions, belief systems and cultural backgrounds are essential to the richness of the human experience,” he said in a message at the opening of the three-day Beijing Forum delivered by his Special Adviser Joseph Verner Reed. “And it is time to stress that our common humanity is greater – far greater – than our outward differences.”

In his travels as Secretary-General, Mr. Ban said that he has encountered a common longing for peace and desire for prosperity.

“But, all too often, I have discovered that people who aspire to the same things also suffer from the same prejudices,” he said. “They fear that which is different from them: the other ethnicity, the other skin colour, the other cultural or linguistic tradition, and above all, the other religion.”

Meeting such as the Beijing Forum can serve as a fountain of new ideas to overcome such prejudices and foster tolerance and understanding, he noted.

Mr. Ban pointed to the UN’s own efforts to bridge the divide through the UN’s Alliance of Civilization, an initiative bringing leaders, institutions and civil society to try to reduce fear and suspicion and overcome prejudices and polarizations that have emerged between Islam and the West, especially in recent years.

“Together, we must seek to further the basic ideals of all the world’s major religions,” he told participants at the Forum. “We must build societies that respect individual beliefs and practices. And we must nurture communities where people of all faiths and nationalities coexist in peace.”