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Meeting with the UN Under-Secretary General to prevent Genocide in Scotland

“Genocide may seem far removed from Scotland, but conflicts can happen anywhere when people don’t know and understand their neighbours – no one is immune from genocide.” - Church of Scotland Minister Iain Torrance.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the conference

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the conference

On the 10th of May, I had the pleasure to attend the meeting on the Plan of Action for the Prevention of Genocide, at the Scottish Parliament. The event was organised by the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society as a part of a two-days visit to Scotland of the UN Under-Secretary General, Adama Dieng. The seminar was sponsored by MSP Bill Kidd, and government, organisations and religious leaders were present for the occasion.

The debate was centred around three main points: preventing, strengthening and building. When talking about prevention, Mr. Adama Dieng stated that “genocide is a process, it does not happen overnight. That’s why we should be able to identify its initial stages and prevent it.” He also remarked the importance of identifying the risk factors that could lead to genocides, such as intolerance towards diversity. Therefore, the plan of action cannot work without strengthening intercultural communication and making a cumulative effort that everyone is held accountable for. As Dr. Ameed Versace from SABS stated later in the discussion, “We all need to have a mentality of curiosity towards people that are different from us.” The last point, in fact, considers the responsibility that each one of us has, to create valuable connections between individuals: “Everyone can decide if to be a builder of bridges or a destroyer of connections. Everyone can decide if to take the shortcut of creating an identity by discrediting the others.” Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

During the discussion, the speakers provided various insights that were causes for reflection for all the attendees. These included the growing concern towards the exploitation of sensitive subjects by western countries politicians. In fact, Mr. Adama Dieng underlined how there is a growing number of cynical politicians that try and manipulate the electorate simply for the gain of scoring votes, without measuring the risk they are provoking. This situation is worsened by the media, which readily feed fear to the public. As a matter of fact, Dr Aliakbar Jafari from the University of Strathclyde, conducted various research in regards of Islamophobia, finding that 4 out of 5 UK articles are filled with prejudices about Islam and that there is a 90% under representation of Muslims in the UK. These problems have not been addressed yet, however it is fundamental to eradicate them, in order to tackle Islamophobia.

When concluding the meeting, Mr Adama Dieng took into consideration the current situation in Scotland, stating that he appreciates how, although having a well-defined identity, the Church is capable of embracing humanity and promoting interfaith communication. He also noticed how much diversity was coexisting in the room, which truly showed the Scottish spirit of embodiment.

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