On 20 October 2011, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, took part in an interactive dialogue with the General Assembly Third Committee. His report and oral presentation focused on the promotion of inter- and intra-religious communication as a means to combat religious intolerance and hate speech. Mr. Bielefeldt also called attention to the possible adverse side effects that may occur in the context of interreligious dialogue projects; including if religious communities are portrayed stereotypically or if full inclusiveness in projects is falsely claimed. In addition, he urged all stakeholders to talk about issues in ways that do not generate hate but which dispel myths, stereotypes and propaganda. With the 30th anniversary of the General Assembly’s 1981 Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief approaching, he pushed for more ‘qualified’ discussions, imploring States to just “do it!, do it!, do it!”
Mr. Bielefeldt argued that education and interreligious communication can help address religious intolerance, which stems from misunderstandings and misconceptions of other religions or beliefs. He stressed the benefits of both formal and informal discussion settings, and at the request of several States (the EU, Austria, Germany and Egypt.
For more information about this event, please consult the report on the website of the International Service for Human Rights.