Government officials and representatives of civil society and religious communities discussed good practices for addressing racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination, including on the basis of gender, and for countering anti-Semitism and intolerance against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions at an OSCE conference in Rome yesterday.
Organized by the 2018 Italian OSCE Chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the “Conference on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination, with a Focus on Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief: Towards a Comprehensive Response in the OSCE Region” also provided an opportunity to focus on ways to make future efforts more effective.
“Fighting intolerance has been among the priorities of Italy’s OSCE Chairmanship. We firmly believe that freedom of religion or belief, individual or collective, is indivisible: each offense to a religion is an offense to all,” said Guglielmo Picchi, Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation. “We think that the OSCE’s human dimension of security provides a positive agenda for fighting intolerance and discrimination. For Italy, this agenda has a particularly Mediterranean meaning.”
In her remarks at the conference opening, Gísladóttir stressed that the discrimination and intolerance that continue to confront different groups today have to be a matter of vital concern to all.
“Despite extensive, long-standing and well-meaning commitments, intolerance and discrimination remain a reality for many members of different religious or belief communities, ethnic or other minority groups in the OSCE region,” the ODIHR Director said. “We need to counter polarization, which in light of history, carries a tremendous risk to peace and security, to the detriment of all. Once the principle of tolerance has been eroded and we start down the slippery slope of allowing intolerance and discrimination to thrive, no group – and I repeat, no group – can assume that they are immune.”
Following morning plenary sessions devoted to challenges faced in addressing racism, xenophobia and discrimination based on religion or belief the afternoon sessions were devoted to panel discussions examining, among other issues, the role of media in addressing intolerance and discrimination, good practices to promote religious pluralism, and the role of educational programmes in addressing negative stereotypes.