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Interfaith dialogue is vital for building inclusive and peaceful societies free from religious hatred

Interfaith dialogue is vital for building inclusive and peaceful societies free from religious hatred, OSCE human rights head says.

Interfaith and interreligious dialogue is vital to promote the right to freedom of religion or belief and combat religious intolerance and violence, not just against people but also against homes, property, schools, religious sites, or places of worship, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said on the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion.

“Dialogue can be difficult, but it is nonetheless vital,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “It gives an opportunity for different religious or belief communities to engage in frank but respectful conversation. This allows members of diverse communities to gain insight into each other’s beliefs, practices and values, fostering mutual tolerance and respect and countering stereotypes and prejudices that can lead to intolerance or even violence.”

Hatred against people from particular religious or belief communities rarely takes place in isolation, but often goes hand in hand with other manifestations of intolerance. Violence and discrimination do not only harm the individuals and communities concerned but can also jeopardize security across the OSCE region, with tensions between religious or belief communities having the potential to transform into wider conflicts.

Through regular exchange and co-operation, religious and belief communities can contribute to the advancement of freedom of religion or belief and strengthen the basis for peaceful co-existence. This can include working together towards effective anti-discrimination policies and legislation regulating the status of religious or belief communities in line with international human rights standards, and at the same time promoting the right to practice religion or belief without fear of violence.

Working towards security and stability in the OSCE region through the promotion of the right to freedom of religion or belief is an important aspect of ODIHR’s work, and the Office’s work in this area is supported by its panel of experts, specialists from a wide range of backgrounds and fields of expertise. Later this year, ODIHR will publish a practical toolkit dedicated to interfaith and interreligious dialogue and partnerships as a means to foster dialogue and understanding between different religions and belief communities.

All participating States of the OSCE have committed to “recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience”. Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right that gives each individual the right to have, not to have, adopt, change or leave a religion or belief. Its essence is the understanding that every society is diverse, and that respecting our differences is the only way for us to live together peacefully.

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