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On Thursday, September 19, 2019, the US Council of Muslim Organizations, the National Council of Churches USA, Religions for Peace USA, and the World Council of Churches Ecumenical UN Office held an interfaith consultation on the theme, “United to Confront Violence against Places of Worship.” The consultation, which grew out of the National Muslim-Christian Dialogue convened by the NCC and USCMO, was the first such meeting of religious and other civil society groups organized to address the concern over the recent and increasing violent attacks and mass shootings at churches, synagogues, mosques, gurdwaras, and other places of worship.  These attacks, accompanied by a rise of hate speech in the US and around the world, are leaving faith communities vulnerable.  

We were honored by the presence of H.E. Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, the High Representative of the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations; H.E. Mr. Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide; and Ms. Simona Cruciani, Political Affairs Officer, of the UN Office on Genocide Prevention.  These senior UN officials presented their just-released action plans to protect sacred places and communities of faith, and they presented highlights of these plans.  

We were also joined by Dr. Azza Karam, Chair of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Engaging Faith Based Organizations for Development; Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Deputy Secretary General of Religions for Peace International; Rabbi Diana Gerson, Associate Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis; Rev. Douglas Leonard, Coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical UN Office; Dr. Abdus-Salaam Musa, President of the Southeast Queens Muslim Collective; and Mr. James Lynch, President of the Buddhist Council of New York.  These presenters shared with us stories of violence experienced by their and other religious communities, and discussed their reactions to the UN plans and how their communities might collaborate in such actions to prevent such atrocities in the future.  Many participants from diverse religious communities attending from around the country also meaningfully contributed to the discussion. 

Our national organizations will continue their dialogue with one another, and with the offices of the UN, to maintain a flow of information and share progress with our local affiliates and communities. We thank all those present who made today a historic day for unity in confronting hate and violence against religious communities. We are committed to stand together to defend religious freedom, and the right to worship freely without fear.