UN chief urges world's faiths to 'reject extremism'

Manila, Philippines - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged peoples around the world to shun religious extremism and strive for greater interfaith understanding. "We need to reject extremism," Ban said in a video message at the opening of the Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development in Manila.

"We have had enough mutual suspicion and fear," he said. "The wonderfully diverse members of your movement can do much to forge greater understanding."

The two-day conference attended by foreign ministers and representatives from the Non-Aligned Movement's 118 member countries was aimed at charting an approach to global, regional and national peace and development through interfaith dialogue and cooperation.

"Many members of the Non-Aligned Movement have ample experience in bridging religious differences," Ban said. "I urge you to use that experience to promote dialogue wherever it is needed."

William Vendley, secretary general of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, decried the abuse of religion by extremist groups.

"Religious believers must, first of all, acknowledge that their religious traditions have at times been abused by extremists," he said. "They must reject this abuse."

Vendley called on religious communities to unite and join hands in building a "simple and honest mechanism that can serve principled multireligious cooperation for peace on every level: local, national, regional and global."

At the end of the meeting Thursday, the ministers are to draw up a Manila declaration and programme of action.

These would "usher in a cooperative international approach to promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, enlightened knowledge and education," Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz said.