By Arul Louis
United Nations, Sep 14 (IANS) The head of a UN body to promote cultural and religious harmony has said that the restrictions in Kashmir that prevented Shias from holding their Muharram procession is a “negative”.
“Anything that puts obstacles or don’t allow people to respect each other is negative,” Miguel Moratinos, the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), said on Friday while replying to a reporter’s question.
“The time has come that we are all one humanity, and we have respect each other,” he said.
The reporter had asked him about the restrictions in Kashmir that hindered the holding of the Muharram processions this week to commemorate the martydom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad.
Another reporter asked him about the Babri Masjid, which he said needs to be preserved as a centuries-old site, and about overcoming inter-faith tensions surrounding it.
Moratinos did not directly answer the question, but spoke about a project of the UNAOC in association with UNESCO to identify and map historical religious sites.
“We already know some of the main historical centres, but with this mapping exercise we will identify the symbolical places, the ones that have historically played a fundamental role in their communities in their faith. And so they will have special treatment,” he said.
On Thursday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, a programme to be led by Moratinos.
Guterres asked Moratinos to develop the plan after the terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand in March.
The plan provides an “action-oriented” programme to prevent attacks against places of worship and guarantee the safety of the faithful to worship in peace, the UNAOC said.
Guterres said: “When people are attacked because of their religion or beliefs, all of society is diminished. Houses of worship around the world must be safe havens for reflection and peace, not sites of bloodshed and terror.”
(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)