13 November 2015 – Some 30 religious leaders from the Middle East and North Africa are developing a regional strategy to counter hate speech as part of an international effort co-sponsored by the United Nations to intervene when incitement is widespread and the risk of violence imminent.
The leaders met in Amman, Jordan, this week under the co-sponsorship of the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, Columbia Global Centers Middle East (Amman) and Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, building on strategies religious leaders from around the world adopted in Fez, Morocco, in April.
The gathering was the second of five regional meetings of religious leaders to develop regional strategies to prevent incitement to violence. The first brought together religious leaders from Europe in Treviso, Italy, in September.
“The readiness of all religious leaders gathered here in Amman – who come from different countries and have different faiths and beliefs – to work together to deal with this challenge is truly impressive,” UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng told the meeting, which ended yesterday.
“I commend their commitment and their willingness to act, and look forward to seeing the results of this meeting. States are responsible for the protection of their populations, but everyone has a role to play. Given their spiritual leadership and influence, religious leaders have a special responsibility and their engagement is essential to prevent and counter incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes.”
The leaders proposed setting up a network of leaders from different religions to prevent incitement in the region, increase the awareness of State authorities of the challenges and the measures that could be taken, train religious leaders on the use of social media to reach wider audiences, and express solidarity with the victims of incitement to violence.
The Fez meeting called for monitoring incitement, developing alternative messages, engaging in dialogue, revising education to appreciate all cultures, strengthening inter-religious and intra-religious dialogue and activities to ensure understanding, respect and communication, and engaging with political leaders.
The draft Plan of Action agreed on there is being further developed at the five regional meetings over the next year, and will be adopted at a plenary meeting of religious leaders planned for next year.
The draft recommends several other actions including dialogue training, mapping and networking of religious leaders who actively work to prevent incitement that can lead to atrocity crimes around the world, engaging with youth and ensuring a gender perspective in all actions proposed and undertaken.