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In Morocco, UN-backed forum highlights role of religious leaders in preventing atrocities

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Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng. © UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

23 April 2015 – At a forum on the role of religious leaders in preventing incitement to violence and atrocities, which opened today in Fez, Morocco, a senior UN rights official stressed the importance of religious leaders worldwide in the prevention, mitigation and resolution of conflicts.

The two-day forum, which will wrap up tomorrow, came a day after a special meeting of the UN General Assembly brought together Member States and religious leaders from around to New York for a two-day high-level debate on the promotion of tolerance in the fight against the growing threat of violent extremism.

Organized at the initiative of the UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide, the International Centre King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue and the Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights of Morocco, the aim of the conference is to stimulate discussion among participants on the role of religious leaders and faith-based organizations in the prevention of atrocities, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Prevention of religious tension and intolerance requires the involvement of all sectors of society. However, religious leaders can play a specific and critical role,” said the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, at a press conference the day before the vent, formally titled the ‘Forum on the Role of Religious Leaders in Preventing Incitement that could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.’

“Given the profound influence they have on their followers, at the community, national and international level, religious leaders can and should play a role in the prevention, mitigation and resolution of tensions and conflicts between people of different faiths,” insisted Mr. Dieng, who emphasized the responsibility of religious leaders in the prevention of violence and atrocity crimes.

Among other aims, the Forum will provide an opportunity to examine the role of religious leaders in preventing or curbing hate speech and incitement in these situations. It will explore specific preventive measures to be taken in order to empower religious leaders to identify early warnings for atrocity crimes within their communities and to provide a unified and rapid response in times of social unrest. Additionally, the Forum seeks to discuss how these actions can be implemented.