Remarks by Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN at the High Level Video Conference on ‘’The Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing the Multiple Challenges of COVID-19’’, 12 May, 2020

Distinguished Panelists, Your Eminences, and Excellencies – good morning.

I thank my dear friend Ambassador Omar Hilale and the Kingdom of Morocco for organizing this important event. I also thank the Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly, and other eminent religious personalities and distinguished panelists for their valuable insights.

Religious leaders occupy a special place of influence in society on matters of faith and cohesion. Following the Covid-19 outbreak, we have seen the important role they have played in mobilizing public opinion for implementing health and safety measures in their respective communities; in providing shelter and succor; promoting tolerance and harmony; and in the healing process of those who have lost loved ones.

The SG’s Appeal to the religious leaders of the major faiths and reiteration of their important role in this situation was very timely and appealing. We also welcomed his global appeal to address and counter hate speech, xenophobia, and fear-mongering that has been exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic has shown us the critical role that religious and faith leaders can play in this regard, as the SG reminded us again today.

For all their differences, religions converge in the realm of ethics, central to which is the fundamental principles of humanism. And these principles can curb all that divides humanity. This is where leaders of different faiths can stand together to spread a message of compassion and inter-faith harmony, of human fraternity and inclusion, especially in reaching out to the most vulnerable in our societies. And today, we heard some such compelling messages from the panel of eminent faith leaders. They all spoke in the same voice; and they had the same message. It was very reassuring.

The pandemic called for strict social distancing protocols, which also applied to places of religious congregations. And in this respect, religious leaders everywhere played an important role in convincing their communities to be rational and make adjustments to their practices in the greater public interest.

In Bangladesh, we take pride in our tradition of inter-faith harmony and peaceful co-habitation.   In the outbreak of the pandemic, the Prime Minister provided leadership in ensuring health guidelines for places of worship. And we have effectively engaged faith leaders to impart the message of containing the outbreak through social distancing. That was critical in slowing the spread of the virus. At the same time, their messages of tolerance and harmony in the current situation, of the virtues of charity and sharing, and of solidarity and collective responsibility, carries much meaning for the society as a whole battling this crisis.

The pandemic which has upended our lives is a time for reflection. And in times of such crises, people seek solace and strength in their faith. And in this respect, religious leaders have such an important role to play to appeal to the universal faith of humanity, rising above differences and divides. They are the healers, the voice of compassion and the moral compass in our society as we grapple with this unprecedented crisis of our time. We will count on them for moral leadership.

I thank you.