Statement by Ambassador Takahiro Shinyo
Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace

5 October 2007
United Nations General Assembly
New York


Mr. President,

Last year in its resolution 221, the General Assembly said it was "alarmed that serious instances of intolerance and discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, including acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by religious intolerance, were on the increase in many parts of the world and threatened the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The Assembly went on to emphasize the need for "strengthening...respect for diversity of culture and religion or belief, dialogue and understanding" as the way to end discrimination and violence based on religious and other differences.

One year earlier, in 2005, the statement issued at the conclusion of the Bali ASEM Interfaith Dialogue expressed similar concern, and we therefore need to keep it in mind as well, especially the resolutions adopted on education, culture, media, religion and society.

I believe this High-level Dialogue provides us with an important opportunity to advance the goals of the Bali Declaration and General Assembly resolution A/61/221, and I am pleased to be able to participate in it.

(Importance of education)

Mr. President,

It is the view of Japan that interreligious and intercultural dialogue contributes to mutual understanding, and that it not only resolves existing conflicts but also helps to prevent new conflicts from arising.

To enhance mutual understanding, education is clearly of critical importance. We simply must convey to our people at all levels, including the national and regional, that there are many religions and cultures in the world other than our own, and tolerance for them is essential if we are to secure for people everywhere the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

(Importance of the roles of the private sector and local authorities)

Also important for the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue, Mr. President, are the activities of the private sector including NGOs, and those of local authorities. All Member States should likewise heed the messages delivered by representatives of religious groups at the Informal Meeting of Leaders in the Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and this High-Level Dialogue. Greater understanding is necessary at both the community level and the national level.

(Our approach)

Mr. President,

I would like to briefly describe the steps Japan is taking in this area.

Japan has made a positive commitment to the "Dialogue among Civilizations" that UNESCO is leading. In 2001 at the United Nations University, we hosted the International Seminar on Education and the Protection of Cultural Heritage in South-Eastern Europe. This was a discussion about how education should help make people understand other nationalities and cultures, and the participants, in addition to South-Eastern European countries themselves, included UNESCO, UNICEF and the Council of Europe.

In 2005, Japan hosted the World Civilization Forum 2005 in Tokyo.

Japan was one of the co-chairs of the Counter-Terrorism Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum held in Singapore in May 2007 and contributed to the first discussion there on "inter-civilization dialogue."

And last July, Japan became a member of the "Alliance of Civilizations" Group of Friends.

Last May, the Fifth ASEM Conference on Counter-Terrorism was held in Japan, and participants emphasized the need to engage in intercultural, interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue on the fight against terrorism.

To date, in addition to the World Civilization Forum I mentioned earlier, we have hosted the Seminar for Inter-Civilizational Dialogue with the Islamic World five times, dispatched an Exchange and Dialogue Mission to the Middle East three times and invited people involved in Islamic Boarding Schools in Indonesia to visit and speak with people in Japan. Thus we have made continuing and varied efforts to promote intercultural and inter-civilizational dialogue.

Mr. President,

Before concluding, I would like to say just a few words about human security, which is what a society achieves when its people are free from fear and scarcity and are able to live their lives with dignity. That is to say, it is the idea and goal of the protection and empowerment of each person.

Japan believes the idea of human security has much in common with the purpose of "interreligious and intercultural dialogue," which is the "satisfaction of human rights and fundamental freedoms." We are therefore convinced that such dialogue can and should be advanced through the pursuit of human security.

Thank you.

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