Ladies and gentlemen,

For the past two decades, Qatar has shown resolve to build a forward-looking, open and tolerant society where people from different religious persuasions and cultures can feel home and thrive.

The first step made towards promoting religious tolerance, religious freedom and dialogue between civilizations was to strengthen the rights of Christians residing in Qatar to practice their religion freely and without fear of persecution.

As his Highness the Emir of Qatar stated in his speech before the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly last September, the protection and promotion of human rights, including the freedom of religion, is a strategic choice and part and parcel of the country’s comprehensive reform agenda.

As a result of these efforts, there are eight registered Christian denominations where hundreds of thousands of Christians practices their religion freely. The State of Qatar hosts the Gulf’s largest complex of churches in Church City.

At the international level, my government has made interfaith dialogue one of the pillars of its foreign policy. To achieve this goal, Qatar has established a number of institutions that promote interfaith dialogue, combat bigotry, and religious extremism. These include the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, which was officially opened in May 2008. The Center is one of the key institutions focused on interfaith dialogue.

Qatar also make positive contributions to the Istanbul Process and in implementing UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 16/18 on combatting religious intolerance and discrimination based on religion. In March 2014 it hosted the fourth session of the Istanbul Process in Doha, which focused on advancing religious freedom through interfaith collaboration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Qatar’s efforts to promote interfaith dialogue go beyond its borders. It works collaboratively with foreign governments to promote a better understanding of Islam and a better integration of Muslims immigrants living on their soil. For example, Qatar has established the Hamad Bin Khalifa Islamic Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2014, which aims to serve Muslims in Europe and serve as a beacon for the promotion of a deeper understanding of the teachings of Islam and the fight against bigotry and Islamophobia.

Qatar also hosts annually a fellowship program for the Alliance of Civilizations in collaboration with the United Nations Secretariat of the Alliance of Civilizations. This program provides young leaders from different parts of the world with an opportunity to interact with and learn about each other’s cultures, religious beliefs, and history with the ultimate goal of making the participants leaders in the promotion of interfaith dialogue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The promotion of religious freedom, freedom of worship and the right of religious minorities is not a one-way street. While the promotion of these rights are enshrined in the constitutions of most western countries, there has been a worrying trivialization of hate speech, bigotry and Islamophobia in most western societies.

The recent terrorist attacks in Christchurch is but the consequence of the trivialization of hate speech against Muslims. These attacks should serve as wakeup call to all of us to work more than ever before to promote interfaith of dialogue, and to defend the rights of religious minorities throughout the world.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future