The head of the UN mission in Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Wednesday met Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, in the southern city of Najaf.
Supreme religious authority Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani stressed on Wednesday the importance of concerted efforts to reject violence and hatred, while stressing the achievement of justice in various societies.
Ayatollah Al-Sistani’s office said in a statement that “His Eminence Sayyid Al-Sistani received before noon this afternoon Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations in charge of developing a plan of the international organization to protect religious sites after the attacks they were subjected to in various places in the world in recent years.”
“His Eminence listened to the explanation he gave about that plan, the principles on which it is based and the procedures followed in this regard,” it added.
During the meeting, Sistani stressed “the significance of concerted efforts in promoting a culture of peaceful coexistence, rejecting violence and hatred, and consolidating the values of harmony based on the care of rights and mutual respect among adherents of different religions and intellectual trends.”
Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani affirmed that “the tragedies suffered by many peoples and ethnic and social groups in many parts of the world are the result of the intellectual and religious persecution practiced against them, the suppression of fundamental freedoms and the absence of social justice, stressing the need to address the background of these rejected and condemned phenomena in all cases, and to work hard to achieve a degree of justice and tranquility in various societies.
Ayatollah Al-Sistani wished Moratinos success in carrying out his mission and conveyed his greetings to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
High Representative Moratinos lauded His Eminence’s wisdom and compassion. He expressed how deeply moved he was by His Eminence’s moderate approach and consistent appeals for mutual respect and unity to prevail in support of diversity and peaceful co-existence.
Recalling the meeting between His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence on 6 March 2021, the High Representative and His Eminence exchanged views on the importance of inter- and intra-religious dialogue, which lie at the core of the UNAOC mandate.
High Representative Moratinos also presented the “United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites: In Unity and Solidarity for Safe and Peaceful Worship”, developed in 2019 in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks in New Zealand. In Iraq also, worshippers and holy sites have suffered tremendously.
The Plan of Action is a global call to rally around the most basic tenets of humanity, compassion and tolerance, to ensure that people are allowed to practice their faith and observe their rituals in peace. To this end, it is imperative that religious sites and places of worship and contemplation are true safe havens.
Launching the Plan in 2019, the High Representative presented the Plan of Action to His Holiness Pope Francis and to His Eminence Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb. With today’s meeting, Moratinos said, three major religious leaders represented through the Vatican, Cairo, and Najaf, have been engaged. The High Representative extended his full collaboration and support to any effort that contributes to building a peaceful, just and cohesive society based on mutual respect and human dignity.