United Religions Initiative urges united action to stem Middle East violence
STATEMENT FROM THE URI GLOBAL COUNCIL IN SUPPORT OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
As Trustees of the Global Council of United Religions Initiative, we write to express our support for the millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa who have joined together to demand democratic freedoms and respect for human dignity, and urge an end to the sectarian and political violence that threatens to undermine their gains.
A global organization of more than 500 community groups in 78 countries, URI’s purpose is to promote interreligious and cross-cultural cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. Our Middle East and North Africa region includes members—called Cooperation Circles—in Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, UAE, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Iran.
We hereby call upon local, regional and international actors to work together to stem the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region, perpetrated by regimes which have acted violently toward their own citizens by obstructing freedom of expression, brutally attacking innocents and fomenting civil war.
Recent events have shown the world that collective, non-violent demonstration is a powerful and effective means of lasting social and political change. By uniting people of all walks of life, of all faiths, creeds and cultures, around a common purpose, the “Arab Spring” achieved more in six months than have decades of isolated efforts at reform. Even in an atmosphere of oppression and challenge, the world bore witness to courageous acts of communal faith and love. In Tahrir Square, for example, Christians and Muslims guarded one another’s prayers with chants of “we are one,” a powerful demonstration of the desire of those diverse peoples to live in harmony with one another. This was one of hundreds of actions reflective of the true spirit of cooperation shared in the region, and shows how collective, directed intention can empower a people and revitalize a nation.
However, in this time of transition and instability, we are gravely concerned about the ongoing violence, both political and sectarian, which is sowing division and internal conflict and impeding the remarkable successes of these movements.
Consolidating the gains for human rights and freedoms in the Middle East will require the participation and vigilance of all sectors of society. We ask all civil society groups, governments and religious leadership in the region to join us in placing activism on behalf of human dignity at the center of our agendas and working to protect the diversity of faith traditions, promote respect and understanding between and within communities, secure a place for dissenting voices in government and society, and actively interrupt the teaching of hate and derision.
We further urge the international community to support the ongoing struggle of the peoples of the region seeking true representative democracy within respected national borders, an adherence to basic tenants and principles of human rights, full transparency and accountability at every level of government, and equal economic and social opportunity for all.
URI is committed to working with both community and international actors in supporting these efforts so that the people of the Middle East and North Africa may live in peace and dignity and continue working together to build a freer, more secure and more prosperous future.
United Religions Initiative Global Council of Trustees