The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a new resolution following an initiative by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Islamic countries. They condemn crimes against religious sites and call for more efforts to promote a "culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites". It also denounces "any act aimed at eliminating or forcibly transforming any religious site".
A world conference is planned to support this goal. The text "urges the international community to redouble its efforts to foster a worldwide dialogue on the promotion at all levels of a culture of tolerance and peace based on respect for human rights and diversity of religions and beliefs".
The aim, the text says, is to "help mobilise political support for action to advance the UN plan of action for the protection of religious sites".
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, will convene a global conference, the date of which has not yet been set, with UN entities, member states, politicians, religious leaders, media, civil society, faith-based organisations and other stakeholders.
Saudi Arabia's representative, Abdallah al-Mouallimmi, said when the resolution entitled 'Promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites' was introduced, the text of which condemns crimes or mockery against religious sites and symbols, rejects the use of violence to express any point of view and aims to develop a culture of peace as a shield against extremism and intolerance.
He mentioned that religious sites represent history and are precincts of peace. He added that he was pained to see these religious places threatened or destroyed, "whether they are Muslim mosques, Christian churches, Jewish synagogues or Sikh or Hindu temples".
Pakistan's ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, said the adoption of the resolution stems from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's efforts to combat Islamophobia and ban attacks on holy shrines, symbols and personalities in certain countries.
He added that the adoption of the resolution is also a counter to Hindu extremists in India who have launched a systematic and government-backed programme to eliminate the heritage and legacy of Islam in India through the destruction of Islamic shrines. In addition to the transformation of India's Muslims into second-class citizens or non-citizens.
The ambassador mentioned that the resolution has generated hope that the international community will unite in denouncing violent attacks on religious sites, promoting mutual respect, understanding and tolerance. "Pakistan will continue to play a leading role in this effort," he added.
The Assembly condemned any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. It urged states to take measures to combat such incidents.
The text also emphasises freedom of religion and belief, freedom of opinion and expression. In addition to the right to freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly.