UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan Friday lauded the UN-backed initiative that seeks to promote better cross-cultural relations worldwide, and called for stepped up efforts to promote interfaith harmony in the wake of the release of an anti-Islam video that led to protests in Muslim countries.
"The instances of religious intolerance and acts of incitement to hatred such as the release of the blasphemous video are on the increase," Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in remarks to the ministerial meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations' Group of Friends, held on the margins of the high-level debate of the General Assembly.
"These incidents are not only sowing the seeds of religious hatred, discrimination and violence among and within societies but are also a serious threat to the maintenance of international peace and security," Khar said.
"The United Nations as well as all member states have the duty to urgently address these negative trends," she said, adding, "While member states must take appropriate actions to ensure protection against such acts in accordance with relevant international law, the UN, in collaboration with the alliance, must increase its efforts to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue and harmony."
The Alliance was launched in 2005 through the initiative of Spain and Turkey, under UN auspices.
Shortly after the release of the video, the Alliance launched an initiative to ensure that the voices of moderation were not drowned out by the vocal and violent minorities on any side.
Called "Represent Yourself," the Twitter campaign engaged more than three million people in just a few days.
"This is one small example," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the meeting. "Time and time again, the Alliance has shown how it can help open minds and seek change on the ground. It does so by empowering youth around the world" inviting tomorrow’s leaders to take part in cross-cultural exchanges "training journalists to keep the public better informed " and much more.
Ban also announced that he has designated Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the President of the Assembly's 66th session, as High Representative for the Alliance. Al-Nasser replaces Jorge Sampaio, former President of Portugal, who led the initiative for five years.
Sampaio will step down following the next Alliance forum, which is scheduled for February 2013 and will focus on the issue of responsible leadership.
As the Alliance renews its leadership, the Secretary-General urged participants to renew their commitment, engagement and support.
"The challenges we face are clear and connected. It is our duty to build the alliances of understanding that can help secure progress on the many critical issues we face. Let us make the most of this invaluable platform."
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