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ORDRE SOUVERAIN MILITAIRE ET HOSPITALIER
DE SAINT-JEAN DE JERUSALEM DE RHODES ET DE MALTE
_____
MISSION PERMANENTE D’OBSERVATION AUPRES DE L’OFFICE DES NATIONS UNIES
ET DES AUTRES ORGANISATIONS INTERNATIONALES A GENEVE
Human Rights Council – 28th Session – Item 3
Interactive Dialogue
Freedom of Religion or Belief
Statement by H.E. Ambassador Marie-Thérèse Pictet-Althann
Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta
Geneva, 11th March 2015
Mr. President,
Mr. High Commissioner,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
It is very timely indeed for this Council to be examining the issue of violence
committed in the name of religion. We are daily witnessing the most tragic and
atrocious barbaric acts, including persecutions and assassinations, being perpetrated
by individuals and groups disseminating messages of hatred and violence across the
world.
The Delegation of the Order of Malta wishes to commend the Special Rapporteur for
his extremely valuable and comprehensive report covering this subject of great
concern to the international community. We fully support his assessment of the
responsibilities and obligations of the different stakeholders, i.e. the State, non-State
armed groups, religious communities and their leaders, civil society and the media.
However, as emphasized by the Special Rapporteur, the State has the unique
obligation to ensure that its national institutions are inclusive, thus guaranteeing equal
treatment of the followers of all faiths and assuring that the rights of all are protected.
In addition, it is the common responsibility of both the political and religious
authorities to condemn, in an effective manner, violence committed in the name of
religion, as otherwise they become complicit and as a result could encourage new
such violent acts.
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In this context it is essential that the culture of silence and impunity be overcome by
all stakeholders. The media’s contribution to these efforts should aim at countering
disinformation, hostile rumours and messages of religious extremism which only
aggravate already tense situations, leading to further exclusion.
Mr. President,
There exists a widely held perception that in order to counter effectively the
phenomenon of violence committed in the name of religion, a modern State should be
secular and pluralistic. However, history shows us that religion has always been one
of the key elements in identifying a person’s sense of belonging; it motivates and
shapes an individual’s relationship with the State. Does the Special Rapporteur
believe that a secular and pluralistic State is acceptable to a large religious population
if it does not also offer a religious dimension?
And finally, how could this Council become more engaged in contributing to the
establishment of national action plans to prevent violence committed in the name of
religion, as called for by Professor Heiner Bielefeldt in his conclusions and
recommendations?
Thank you, Mr. President.
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