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India questions selectivity in condemning violence against religions

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Says culture of peace cannot be only for ‘Abrahamic’ religions

United Nations: Calling out the “selectivity” at the United Nations in condemning acts of violence against religions, India has said the UN General Assembly has failed to acknowledge the rising hatred and violence against Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and underlined that the culture of peace cannot be only for “Abrahamic” religions.

Addressing the UN General Assembly session on ‘Culture of Peace’ on Wednesday, First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Ashish Sharma said there are “disconcerting trends” in the world of today.

While India fully agrees that anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and anti-Christian acts need to be condemned and the country also firmly condemns such acts, he pointed out that UN resolutions on such important issues speak only of these three Abrahamic religions together.

“This august body fails to acknowledge the rise of hatred and violence against Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism also,” Sharma said.

“Culture of peace cannot be only for Abrahamic religions. And as long as such selectivity exists, the world can never truly foster a culture of peace,” he said.

Asserting that the UN is not a body which should take sides when it comes to religion, Sharma said if “we are indeed selective”, the world will end up proving American political scientist Samuel Huntington’s ‘clash of civilisations’.

“What we are trying to build here is an ‘alliance of civilisations’, not set up a clash. I call on the UN Alliance of Civilisation to act likewise and speak for all, not just a select few,” he said.

Sharma recalled the shattering of the iconic Bamyan Buddha by fundamentalists in Afghanistan as well as the bombing of a Gurdwara in the war-torn country in March where 25 Sikh worshipers were killed and the destruction of Hindu and Buddhist temples and minority cleansing of these religions by countries.

He told the 193-member General Assembly that such acts call for condemning violence and attacks against Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh religions also.

“But the current member states refuse to speak of these religions in the same breath as the first three Abrahamic religions. Why is this selectivity?” he asked.

Sharma noted that overall, Hinduism has more than 1.2 billion followers, Buddhism has over 535 million followers and Sikhism around 30 million followers across the world.

“It is time that attacks against these religions are also added to the earlier list of the three Abrahamic religions when such resolutions are passed,” he said.

Key UN General Assembly resolutions over the years have categorically condemned and voiced concern over increase in “anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia in various parts of the world”. However, violence against other religious minorities “get little more than a slap on the wrist”, a sentiment shared by several other countries also, sources said.

Sharma told the General Assembly session that India is not just the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, but is also the land where the teachings of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism have taken strong root and where the Sufi tradition of Islam has flourished.

“Today, every one of the world’s major religions has a home in India,” he said.

Sharma said for millennia, India has provided shelter to waves of those persecuted in foreign lands, and allowed them to thrive in India. “And our tradition of inter-culture dialogue goes right to the time when ancient Indian thinkers had a flourishing dialogue with the ancient Greeks. India is not just a culture, but a civilisation in itself,” he added.

Underlining that culture of peace is the cornerstone of the foundation of a global order of peace and tolerance, he said India has tried to foster this culture through tolerance, understanding, respect for differences, respect for other religions and cultures, respect for human rights, gender equality — all this under the overarching umbrella of pluralistic ethos and democratic principles.

India on Wednesday co-sponsored a resolution presented by Bangladesh titled, ‘Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace’.

The resolution reiterates that the objective of the effective implementation of the Programme of Action is to strengthen further the global movement for a culture of peace. It invites member states to continue to place greater emphasis on and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace at the national, regional and international levels and to ensure that peace and non-violence are fostered at all levels.

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