UNITED NATIONS: India has urged the international community to jointly combat violence against all religions, including Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, as it recalled that the shattering of the iconic Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban stands as a testimony to what hate against other religions can do.
India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador T S Tirumurti said the emergence of contemporary forms of religiophobia, especially anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias is a matter of serious concern and needs the attention of the UN to address this threat.
He spoke at a special virtual event on Friday on the occasion of the International Day of Human Fraternity organised by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in partnership with the Permanent Missions of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to the UN.
The spirit of human fraternity also enjoins us to combat hate and violence not just against Abrahamic religions but combat hate and violence against all religions, including Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
"The shattering of the iconic Bamiyan Buddhas, to name one tragic event, stands as a testimony to what hate against other religions can do," he said. The Taliban had destroyed the 6th-century sandstone statues of Buddha at Bamiyan in 2001. Former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had ordered the use of tanks and artillery to bombard and dynamite the huge statues carved in enormous mountain niches.
India has been consistently underlining that the trend of highlighting certain religious phobias has of late become prominent. Earlier this month, Tirumurti said the UN had highlighted some of them over the years, like those based on Islamophobia, Christianophobia and antisemitism - the three Abrahamic religions.
"While these three find a mention in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, new phobias, hatred or bias against other major religions of the world need also to be fully recognized," he said. The emergence of contemporary forms of religiophobia, especially anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias is a matter of serious concern and needs the attention of the UN and all Member States to address this threat.
"It is only then can we bring greater balance into our discussion on such topics," Tirumurti had said. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2020 proclaiming February 4 as the International Day of Human Fraternity to be observed every year. India had co-sponsored the resolution last year.
The resolution co-facilitated by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates takes note of efforts and initiatives aimed at promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue including the meeting between Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad al-Tayeb, in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, UAE that resulted in the signing of the 'Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace & living Together'.
Tirumurti noted that the day marks the meeting in Abu Dhabi in 2019 between the heads of two major religions of the world. "This meeting not only underlines the importance of deepening the understanding between these two Abrahamic religions but in fact between all religions and faiths as well," he said.
He stressed that like the International Day of Human Fraternity, international days are days that should seek to bring all of us together as one family and be celebrated in an inclusive manner, and should not seek to divide us. As the resolution to commemorate the International Day of Human Fraternity reaffirms, there is a need to commit ourselves to pluralistic traditions.
Pluralism is the protective sheath in which human fraternity blossoms. This is in line with our own belief that 'The World is One Family-Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam', Tirumurti said.
The UN said that celebrating human fraternity and the values it embodies such as mutual respect, diversity of cultures and religions, advancing intercultural and interreligious dialogue reminds us of the common values that we share as one humanity.
"This spirit is particularly needed at a time when many communities are divided across religious, ethnic and cultural lines," it said. The world body said that growing religious hatred, stigma and manifestations of various forms of discrimination against vulnerable communities, including minorities, are an affront to human rights and UN values. "Such vile acts risk undermining global efforts to recover and rebuild better in a post-pandemic era," it said.
Tirumurti said the International Day is an occasion for the international community to renew its commitment to the human fraternity by promoting pluralism, cultural diversity and advancing dialogue and understanding between religions, cultures and civilisations for fostering a genuine culture of peace.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message for the day, said that the human family faces a cascade of challenges, from deepening poverty and widening inequalities to conflict, division, and mistrust. To confront them, we need to challenge those who exploit differences, traffic in hate, and instill fear of 'The Other' in anxious hearts.
Around the world, we see a rise in hate speech, intolerance, discrimination and even physical attacks against people, simply because of their religion or belief, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation, Guterres said. He called on the international community to commit to stand firm against bigotry wherever and whenever it occurs and to recognise that "our diversity as a richness that strengthens us all.