5 February 2019, New York, USA – The New York Interfaith Dialogue convened a diverse panel of Ambassadors and other high-level representatives to engage on the links between faith and sustainable development. The Dialogue was hosted by UNITAR in collaboration with the Permanent Missions of Ecuador and Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York and took place at the UN Headquarters.

UNITAR’s Interfaith Dialogue aims to commemorate the World Interfaith Harmony Week established in 2010 by UN General Assembly Resolution 65/5 and to raise awareness about the values of the Resolution, while facilitating the exchange of best practices on how different faiths can contribute to sustainable development, and in particular to towards building more include communities. 

The New York Interfaith Dialogue had special participation from Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the UN in New York, Ambassador Sima Sami Bahous, Permanent Representative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the UN in New York, Rev. Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN in New York, and Ambassador Louise Blais, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN in New York.

Ambassador Luis Gallegos highlighted that “Interfaith dialogue opens up a pathway for the strengthening of respect and understanding, while building trust and enhancing social cohesion. It increases awareness about how to improve human interactions, by recognizing the importance of religious diversity”.

Rev. Msgr. Tomasz Grysa shared about the historic declaration on Human Fraternity signed in Abu Dhabi on 4 February 2019 between Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, calling for peace between countries, religions and races, before an audience of religious leaders across the world from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other different beliefs.

The document, entitled “A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” reaffirms that “dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully would contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity”

To reflect on the crucial role that faith-based organizations, as well as local and regional governments have in fostering respect for diversity an understanding, the Regional Municipality of York, Canada shared how they are working collaboratively with the York Regional Police and faith-based organizations to find solutions to pressing issues, including crime, victimization, community safety, and migration, among others.

Ms. Lisa Gonsalves, Director of Strategies and Partnerships from the Regional Municipality of York, Canada and Mr. Ricky Veerappan, Superintendent of the York Regional Police, Canada shared ongoing efforts to promote “understanding and acceptance of diversity, equity and inclusion in an increasingly global community.”

The Regional Municipality of York is one of the fastest growing and most diverse communities in Canada with over 300 places of worship that serve faith communities. As a “Regional Government, we recognize the important role we play in working together with our many faith communities to foster peaceful, vibrant, inclusive communities”, Ms. Gosalves highlighted.  

The upcoming Interfaith Dialogue will take place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 12 February 2019 under the theme “Global Solidarity and Welcoming the Stranger”

Estrella Merlos from UNITAR