WORD - the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Order of

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O RDRE S OUVERAIN M ILITAIRE ET H OSPITALIER DE S AINT -J EAN DE J ERUSALEM DE R HODES ET DE M ALTE _____ M ISSION P ERMANENTE D ’ OBSERVATION AUPRES DE L ’ OFFICE DES N ATIONS U NIES ET DES AUTRES O RGANISATIONS I NTERNATIONALES A G ENEVE

Human Rights Council – 28

th

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, 11

th

March 2015

Mr. President, Mr. High Commissioner, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, It is very timely indeed for this Council to be examining the issue of

committed in the name of religion. violence

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. 1

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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