Respect for different cultural and religious values vital, countries say at UN

25 September 2008

Encouraging dialogue and mutual respect between peoples of different faiths, beliefs and values is essential in modern societies where citizens come from diverse backgrounds, the representatives of three countries told the General Assembly’s high-level debate today.

Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said every government faced a challenge in balancing the need to affirm the cultural and religious values and customs of citizens with building bridges with the rest of the world.

“Governments are there for everyone,” he said. “For men and women. For people of all backgrounds and all religious convictions. For monks, priests, rabbis and imams. And equally for those who do not believe in a supreme being.”

Mr. Balkenende called on everyone to “cherish and defend” both the freedom of religion or belief and the freedom to express one’s views, saying they went hand in hand and should be viewed as universal rights.

“At the same time, we must remind everyone who enjoys these freedoms of their responsibility – the responsibility to show the same respect to others that we claim for ourselves.”

San Marino’s head of Government and Foreign Minister Fiorenzo Stolfi stressed the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, saying they affirmed the guiding principles of the UN.

Mutual respect between individuals and peoples are prerequisites to peace and justice, Mr. Stolfi told the Assembly debate, adding that they help to reduce tensions or prevent them from emerging.

For his part, Brunei’s Crown Prince Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah said his country has long supported the need for worldwide dialogue between faiths to promote tolerance and understanding.

“We affirm the right of all small nations and the fragile societies and values they uphold to continue their way of life with security today and hope for the future,” he said.


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