At the outset, my delegation would like to congratulate the Secretary General for his report highlighting the activities carried out by key United Nations entities involved in the field of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
The question of religion and the contribution of religions to peace and development have resurfaced in the United Nations in recent years because they have become urgent and inevitable in the opinion of the world. A century and a half ago, at the beginning of the industrial revolution, religion was described as the "opium of the people", today, in the context of globalization, it is increasingly regarded as the "vitamin of the poor".
Interreligious or interfaith dialogue aiming at investigating the theological and spiritual foundations of different religions in view of mutual understanding and cooperation is becoming more and more an imperative, a conviction and an effective endeavor among many religions.
Today, many Christian denominations and other religions are engaged in dialogue with programs of their own and in this way have continued to make progress in greater understanding among each other. In this regard, the Holy See has implemented a number of initiatives to promote dialogue among Christian denominations, with Jewish believers, Buddhists and Hindus. A Council on Interreligious Dialogue was set up more than forty years ago and more recently a first-of-its-kind initiative with the representatives of the 138 Muslim signatories of the document, A Common Word Between Us and You. This engagement seeks to foster greater respect, understanding and cooperation among believers of various denominations, encourage the study of religions and promote the formation of persons dedicated to dialogue.
This type of theological and spiritual dialogue requires that it be conducted by and among believers and adopt a proper methodology. At the same time, it offers the indispensable premise and basis for that much broader culture of dialogue and cooperation that different academic, political, economic and international institutions have launched in past decades.