World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

From the Editor

Today marks the launch of the GMA blog, which will provide a space for dialogue about the human rights issues facing communities across the world. And 21st May is very fitting for this, as to day is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. As Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, explains:

“Our cultural diversity is a stimulator of creativity. Investing in this creativity can transform societies. It is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change.”

According to the UN, three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension, which is why events to promote dialogue and understanding are essential to enable us to learn to live together in harmony.

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Christian and minority rights must be top of the Muslim world’s agenda

by Usman Khan

Respect and tolerance are attributes charged with the potential to unite people and to establish meaningful peace; yet minorities in Muslim majority countries, particularly Christians, are all too often forcibly starved of both.

For example, in Sudan Mrs. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Christian woman who is eight months pregnant, has been detained along with her 20-month-old child, and sentenced to receive 100 lashes for adultery, followed by death for the act of apostasy.

A simple issue that would have been thrown out on first hearing in any court that upholds justice has been morphed into a case of vital social and ethical consequences for Sudan. If upheld, the sentence will be another nail in the coffin suffocating vulnerable minorities. But the fact is that Mrs. Ibrahim has not committed any crime at all, but the courts have indeed acted with gross indecency that go against the very basic teachings of Islam. As a devoted Muslim, I often wonder how we could have arrived at this position. Particularly given that the concept of tolerance is so fundamental to what it means to be a Muslim. For example, the Qur’an informs Muslims that “There should be no compulsion in religion” (Q.2:257) and that each person has a right to leave Islam (Q.4:138) and enjoy freedom of religious belief (Q.109:7). This can only mean that a Muslim has a religious obligation to be respectful and tolerant of all of God’s creation, without prejudice; this includes Christians, Jews, people of no belief, and even those who decide that Islam no longer helps them achieve the objective of their life.

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