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Attacks On Iraqi Religious Sites "An Outrage"

Attacks On Iraqi Religious Sites “An Outrage For All Of Humanity” – UNESCO Chief

New York, Feb 24 2006

The head of the United Nations organization entrusted with preserving the world’s historical, spiritual and cultural heritage has condemned the destruction of a Shiite shrine and other mosques and churches in Iraq as “an outrage for all of humanity.”

UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura reiterated his organization’s commitment to inter-religious understanding, as an integral part of intercultural dialogue and said it stood ready to assist the launch of such a process in consultation with the Iraqi authorities.

“I call on all parties to respect all holy places,” he added in a statement on the destruction this week of the golden dome of the Imam Ali al-Hadi shrine in Samarra and the heavy loss of lives in the violence.

He also condemned the destruction of dozens of Sunni mosques and Christian churches in the country and restated UNESCO’s readiness to continue working with the Iraqi authorities to protect and conserve the historical, spiritual and cultural heritage of important sites.

“Respect for this heritage is one of the cornerstones of the rebuilding of the country and a decisive step on the road towards national reconciliation,” Mr. Matsuura said. “Heritage has become a prime target for misunderstanding and aggression because of its symbolic value as a vehicle of identity.

“The protection of the cultural heritage in pre- and post-conflict situations must be secured if dialogue between cultures is to lead to peace, cooperation and development. No effort must be spared to secure respect for international standards if intercommunity reconciliation is to become reality.”

He called on the international community to continue providing financial support to improve the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage.


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