awards

H.E Matthew Rycroft
September 24, 2015
Thank you so much, Rabbi. Thank you. Rabbi Schneier, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor and a privilege to be representing my Prime Minister David Cameron this evening. And I want to begin by joining the Prime Minister in thanking Rabbi Schneier and also in congratulating Larry Fink and Alex Gorsky on their awards this evening.

Now in previous roles, I've written many speeches for Prime Ministers, but today is the first time that I have delivered one on his behalf. I don't know if it'll be the last time, I guess that depends on how this goes. But to stand before you this evening as the new British Ambassador to the United Nations and to accept this world statesman award on David Cameron's behalf, that is a very proud moment for me indeed.

And in accepting the award, I want to pay tribute to you, Rabbi Schneier, and to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation on your 50th anniversary. As the Prime Minister has just said, you are an inspiration. For half a century you have led the world in promoting human rights and religious freedom, in inspiring hope in the most hopeless and in showing the triumph of tolerance over hatred. These are values that my Prime Minister shares, that I share and that my country shares.
Ladies and gentlemen, a Pope, a Rabbi and an Imam walk into a building. That sounds like the first line of a really terrible joke, but in fact it's a snapshot of activity at the United Nations in this most historic of weeks. As the world comes to New York, some of you will grumble about the traffic, but I want to say a few words about the Pope, the Rabbi and the Imam.

The first visit to the United States of His Holiness Pope Francis is a defining moment for Christians, especially Catholics across the United States and indeed around the world. His speech to the U.S. Congress was a very powerful appeal and I look forward to what he has to say in the UN tomorrow. The Rabbi in the UN was you, Rabbi Schneier, as you marked Yom Kippur with the traditional Tashlich ceremony in the UN's rose garden this week, the first one ever held in the UN. And I was pleased to be there myself.

And the Imam in the UN was one of several religious leaders from the Middle East who met the UN Secretary General in the run-up to today's celebration of Eid. Sadly, today this celebration is overshadowed by the tragic events in Mecca earlier where over 700 pilgrims lost their lives. And we mourn their passing.

The Pope, the Rabbi and the Imam represent the three major monotheistic religions of the world. And my point is this. This week, they come together and have significant moments, each of them for each of those faiths in this very place, and they do so in peace and in co-existence. It is this spirit of co-existence, this convergence of faith and humanity that I want to focus on. In New York this week, the three major religions come together in time.

In Sarajevo, Bosnia, my last overseas posting, those three religions come together in space. Within just a hundred yards of cobbled streets you come across the main synagogue, the main mosque, the Catholic cathedral and the Orthodox cathedral. Twenty years ago, that city of Sarajevo, so symbolic of co-existence, was under threat from the most vicious fighting seen in Europe since the Second World War. Those scars are still healing and I want to pay tribute to the important work that you have undertaken, Rabbi, to foster reconciliation among the communities of Bosnia. It's only through embracing co-existence and rejecting ethnic nationalism that there will be real peace there.

And that principle, the principle that applied in Bosnia applies around the world. If you look at all the main conflicts on the agenda of the UN Security Council where I now spend so much of my time, their root causes are found in extremist nationalism, in the separation of us from them. Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, many others, each of them has a sustainable solution, but only if it is based on genuine co-existence. There will never be overwhelming military victory in any one of those conflicts for any one side against the others. A solution will never be sustainable for one nationality or one religion or one tribe or one ethnicity if it comes at the expense of the others. The peaceful solution that we seek in each of those cases is the one based on all sides accepting the sharing of power with the principle of co-existence.

That has been true in my country, if you think about Northern Ireland, it was true 20 years ago in Bosnia and I'm convinced that it's true in Syria and all those other places today. Those who reject that co-existence fuel the rise of extremists and zealots. These groups bear no relation to the religions they claim to represent. Instead they make the motto of this foundation ring true today, just as it did 50 years ago. A crime committed in the name of religion really is the greatest crime against religion.

Ladies and gentlemen, the fear painted on the faces of migrants fleeing across the Mediterranean tells us all we need to know about the consequences of the rejection of co-existence. Isil and Assad are driving the worst catastrophe we face today. And just as we did over 70 years ago when the world supported refugees fleeing fascism, so we need to be doing everything that we can today to support those escaping this terror. My country is proud to be playing our part now just as we did then. It's through compassion, tolerance, understanding that we will in the end defeat those who preach hate and division. And it's through organizations such as the Appeal of Conscience Foundation that we can bring people together to advance the cause of co-existence. The Appeal of Conscience Foundation is as needed and as relevant today as it was in 1965 when you, Rabbi, led the first inter-faith delegation to the Soviet Union. So to speak before you tonight has been a great honor and as you celebrate your first 50 years, may I wish you every success for the next 50 to come. Thank you.
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