The United Nations is working more closely with religious organizations in the 21st century and it is to hold a meeting this month with Christian, Muslim and other leaders in Vienna on effecting a plan to prevent incitement to violence that can lead to atrocities taking place.
A meeting on the implementation of the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes is to take place at the Vienna International Center, U.N. Office in Vienna, from Feb. 13-15.
"Incitement contributes to sowing the seeds of suspicion, mistrust and intolerance," says the executive summary of the plan.
"Increased hate speech targeting communities or individuals, based on their identity, contributes to enabling or preparing atrocity crimes, and is thus an indicator that those crimes may be committed."
The Plan of Action - the first specifically designed to enable religious leaders to prevent and counter incitement to violence, - was launched by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on July 2017, the World Council of Churches said in a statement.
He did this during a meeting at U.N. Headquarters in New York.
"Atrocity crimes do not generally happen suddenly or spontaneously . The processes leading to them take time to unfold — time we should use to act on the warning signs, " says Guterrest in the foreword to the plan.
The Plan of Action is pioneering both in its focus on the role of religious leaders and actors, and in the wide range of organizations and stakeholders that contributed to its development.
It contains concrete recommendations to prevent incitement to violence, strengthen communities' resistance to incitement to violence, and build mechanisms for a united response.
Guterres called for its widest dissemination and implementation.
The plan was developed in response to an alarming spike in recent years in hate speech and incitement to violence against individuals or communities, based on their identity.
It is the result of two years of intensive consultations at the global and regional levels organized by the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.
It has the support of the International Dialogue Center (KAICIID), the World Council of Churches (WCC), and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, the United Nations says in its supporting document.
The Meeting on the Implementation of the Plan of Action will gather religious leaders and actors from different faith and denominations.
It will be an assembling of representatives from secular and religious civil society, new and traditional media, U.N. member States, multilateral organizations and United Nations entities.
Participants will discuss practical ways to implement the Plan of Action.
They will identify priorities for its implementation in different regions, based on the areas identified by the Plan of Action.
These will include the prevention of incitement to gender violence and violent extremism, increasing collaboration with education institutions and the media, strengthening interfaith dialogue and fostering peaceful, inclusive and just societies.
Those who formulated the plan believe its implementation will contribute to the prevention of atrocity crimes, especially in areas affected by religious and sectarian tensions and violence.
The also believe it will enhance the respect, protection and promotion of human rights, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and peaceful assembly.