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UN to map digitally world religious sites

The United Nations is to map digitally every religious site in the world as part of its long-term plan to protect places of worship from terrorism and hate crime.

The interactive mapping, designed to foster respect and greater understanding of religion, regardless of belief, was among the top recommend­a­tions listed in the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites. The plan was published in September, six months after terrorist attacks against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (News, 22 March 2019).

In a video message last month, the High Represent­ative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, who was appointed to implement the recommendations, said: “We have identified a solid three-year working plan to undertake a mapping of religious sites around the world. The mapping will result in an interactive online tool that will capture the universality of religious sites and contribute to fostering respect and understanding of their profound significance.”

He also confirmed the imminent launch of a global communication campaign to encourage “personal and emotional connections with religious sites”, particularly among young people. The aim, he said, was to “celebrate their universality and underscore the role of individuals in protecting all religious sites regardless of religion or belief. The target audience of the campaign is global youth who are active on social media and are interested in promoting dialogue, and the global faith community.”

Mr Moratinos had also worked with the UN counter-terrorism officers, politicians, faith-based organisations, and faith leaders — most recently Pope Francis — “to encourage them to step up their internal actions to better prevent, prepare, and respond to attacks against religious sites”.

He concluded: “I will spare no effort in my commitment to working with all relevant actors to ensure the fundamental human right of every individual to freely manifest their religion or belief in their respective place of worship.”

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