On 28 March, 2015, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, addressed the opening of the Conference of the Secretaries-General of the National Commissions to the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), held in Baghdad, together with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Mr Salim Abdullah al-Jabouri, Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Mr Mohammed Iqbal Omar, Minister of Education and President of the Iraqi National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of ISESCO.
This high level conference, entitled “Baghdad - House of Peace and Religions,” provided an opportunity for the Director-General to reaffirm the importance of engaging in intercultural dialogue, to counter new forms of discrimination, intolerance and extremism emerging in increasingly diverse and intermingled societies - one of the goals guiding the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), led forward by UNESCO.
Highlighting UNESCO’s commitment to stand with the people of Iraq in their quest for national reconciliation and peace, the Director-General of UNESCO said: “Together, we must stand up against forces that seek to divide Iraq, because they attack the humanity we all share, the values and aspirations we hold in common.”
“We must safeguard this country’s unique heritage of diversity and tolerance – to prepare the ground for reconciliation and to preserve heritage of universal significance,” she continued, referring to the cultural cleansing underway in Iraq today.
Talking of the situation in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi affirmed: "Iraq is proud of its diversity - diversity brings richness to our society. And we have much more in common than differences between us. We have to combat ideologies of destruction, hate and ignorance, in schools, in mosques and in society at large".
Stressing the universal nature of human values, the Director-General of ISESCO said that "the genuine values of Islam are values of tolerance and solidarity. Therefore Islamic states that suffer from the plague of sectarianism must stand up and speak for our shared values".
“In our struggle to protect culture and knowledge, the partnership between UNESCO and ISESCO has never been so important,” declared Irina Bokova. “This is humanity’s heritage – this is our heritage.”