General Assembly Security Council

Arria formula meeting on Religion, Belief and Conflict: Advancing the protection of members of religious and belief groups in conflict and the role of religious actors in conflict resolution




Ambassador K. Nagaraj Naidu

Deputy Permanent Representative


19 March 2021


Madam President,


At the very outset, I would like to thank the delegation of the United Kingdom for organizing this meeting and to the speakers for sharing their insights on this issue. Our views on the Arria format of meetings are well known and we do not wish to see this platform being misused for narrow political interests.


Madam President,


My country is home to every one and more of the world’s religions. India is not just the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, but is also the land where the teachings of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism have taken strong root and where the Sufi tradition of Islam has flourished since centuries.


The civilizational ethos of India is aptly described in the words of the great Indian philosopher, Swami Vivekananda who said, “We believe not only in universal toleration but accept all religions as true”.


Madam President,


I also represent a country which, for millennia, has provided shelter to waves of refugees seeking refuge in India whether Zoroastrians or Tibetans or Sri Lankan Tamils or from erstwhile East Pakistan when the Bangladeshis faced persecution or from other countries.  They have all been welcomed in India.  The tradition of tolerance and pluralism gives India its unique cultural and civilizational identity.


Madam President,


We believe that pluralism is a fundamental pillar for an open, harmonious and progressive society. Our understanding and practice of pluralistic traditions was well articulated in the words of Mahatma Gandhi when he said, “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”


Madam President,


Religion is a private matter for the individual, and there can be no denying that it plays an important role in the spiritual and moral guidance of humankind. The teachings of major religions reveal their almost universal focus on humanity, compassion, peace, social justice and the divinity of all beings.


While acknowledging that religious institutions in certain situations have played a positive role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their moral authority can be force for good, the reverse can be equally true in instances where religious factions have festered discontent along communal lines that has resulted in conflict. Therefore, involvement of religious institutions in UN-led peace efforts can be a tendentious terrain and we need to tread with caution, discernment and wisdom.


Madam President,


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy “freedom of speech and belief” and “freedom from fear and want” as the highest aspiration of the common people. Consequently, protection of these inalienable rights should be the highest aim of all governments irrespective of the religion, faith and beliefs of its citizens.


India has worked consistently to bring these ideals into reality. The Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom, including the freedoms of religion, belief, faith and worship, of assembly and of movement. It guarantees the right to equality including equality before the law and prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race and sex.


It is when some states that deliberately chose NOT to provide these fundamental safeguards to its citizenry or promote dogma of religious exclusivity, that situations arise when religion is misused by the misguided to target religious icons and sites, attack worshipers, and foster terrorist attacks. Therefore, the notion of using religion as a means of diplomacy in conflict resolution should be treated with utmost caution.


There can be no doubt that terrorism, which is a manifestation of intolerance and violence, is the antithesis of all religions and cultures. It is time that member states take a firm stand against countries that are trying to weaken our collective resolve to fight terrorism and even provide a justification for the heinous acts committed by terrorists.  We also call on all countries which sponsor persecution of religious minorities to eschew such practices and embrace pluralism and democracy.


Madam President,


It is important that we collectively foster a genuine dialogue between civilizations and not just between religions. The last thing we need now is polarization on the basis of religion when the challenges we face are common and there is a greater need than ever to come together with harmony and understanding. The UN cannot afford to take sides when it comes to involvement of religion in our work.


Let us build peace together.  Let us bring harmony into diversity, rather than division into unity.


Treating all religions equally or the concept of “Sarvdharm Sambhav” has been the guiding edifice of Indian ethos since India’s inception.


I Thank you Madam President