The Conference is a follow-on to the Potomac Declaration and Plan of Action, agreed upon during the 2018 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which brought together over 80 countries and 400 members of civil society and religious communities to discuss how to promote religious freedom and protect religious communities. Participating countries were encouraged to host regional follow-up conferences over the following year to allow for more context-specific discussions, and to facilitate greater civil society participation.
The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is organizing the First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection for Religious Communities, with the support of the U.S. Department of State and the partnership of the Rabita Mohammadia of Moroccan Religious Scholars.
The Rabat First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection
The First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection for Religious Communities demonstrates Morocco’s leadership on the preservation of cultural heritage. The actions taken by His Majesty King Mohammed VI to preserve and restore the Jewish and Christian cultural
heritage have become a reference in the field. Jews, Christians and Muslims have coexisted peacefully for centuries in Morocco, which has played a leading role in interfaith dialogue and has always been an outstanding model of cultural coexistence and interaction between Islam and other religions.
The Kingdom of Morocco is indeed the North African country which is home to the largest Jewish community, the largest number of Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, as well as many churches open to Christians to freely worship. Furthermore, all believers in this land have widely enjoyed their rights and the protection of their lives and enjoyed equal treatment when it comes to the preservation of practices, lives and property.
Morocco has long been committed to time-honored traditions of tolerance and openness, a reality put forward by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in the speech He delivered to the participants in the Conference on “The Rights of Religious Minorities in the Muslim World” held in Marrakech in 2016: “We, in the Kingdom of Morocco, see no reason for denying religious minorities any of their rights. We do not tolerate a violation of this kind being perpetrated in the name of Islam, nor do we tolerate any Muslim being involved in such an infringement. This firm belief is rooted in the proper understanding of religious principles, in our cultural heritage and in the history of this time-honored Kingdom; this explains the way Moroccan Muslims interact with each other and with followers of other religions.”
Morocco also hosted the First and Second Conferences of Fes, in 2013 and 2018, respectively, on Cultural and Religious Dialogue.
The First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection of Religious Communities will bring together approximately 100 experts and government officials from Morocco, the USA, Europe, North Africa and the Sahel region, as well as IO, NGOs and other organizations involved in the preservation of cultural heritage.
In follow up to the 2018 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, the conference will focus on the following key issues as reflected in the Potomac Plan of Actions, namely:
- Policies that introduce or improve inventory lists of cultural sites and objects that promote respect for and protect heritage;
- Technical assistance and professional training to relevant officials and local population to safeguard their heritage and sites from damage and/or looting, and help other governments do so, as well as provide emergency assistance for sites in immediate danger;
- Assist with efforts to restore cultural heritage sites of significance to multiple communities in a conflict zone so as to foster intra- and inter-faith relations and rebuild trust;
- Raise public awareness, particularly among youth, of the significance and history of cultural heritage, by working with and through religious actors and other community leaders.
Conference Organization and Panels
The Conference will take place in Rabat, over two days devoted to presentations, with 2 plenary sessions and 5 panels, focusing on the following topics:
Panel Discussion 1:Safeguarding diversity of cultural and religious heritage,The Moroccan Experience
This session will allow the Moroccan government to highlight their work to preserve cultural and religious heritage. A Moroccan case study will be presented.
Panel Discussion 2 : The Role of the International Community, International and Regional Organizations in supporting State efforts to preserve the diversity of cultural and religious heritage
This session will highlight examples of preserving religious and cultural heritage by governments and international organizations.
Panel Discussion 3: The Importance of Promoting Respect, Protection and Preservation of Cultural and Religious Heritage
This session provides an opportunity to hear from impacted leaders about what cultural heritage means for their individual communities (places of worship, cemeteries, manuscripts and other portable objects, traditions) and how that heritage it is at risk today.
Panel Discussion 4: Equipping Religious Actors, Community Leaders, and other Civil Society Members to raise Public Awareness for Cultural Heritage Preservation.
This session will take a deep dive into several distinct experiences to identify best practices for engaging local communities in preserving their cultural heritage. It will highlight why it is imperative to protect existing cultural heritage and why governments and communities alike have a responsibility to promote and respect cultural heritage across all faith communities.
Panel Discussion 5: International Efforts to Safeguard Cultural Heritage at Risk Through Funding, Technical Assistance and Training
This session will highlight specific programs, projects and initiatives to support religious communities, whose heritage is at risk, including places of worship or religious texts.
Morocco will invite technical experts and governments at the senior official level, as well as representatives from civil society and religious communities from participating countries.
We intend the First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection for Religious Communities will:
- Create a constituency of actors that can take action (collectively and individually) around a number of key common objectives and priorities related to the protection of cultural and religious heritage;
- Endorse concrete actions toward preserving the cultural and religious heritage in the concerned regions;
- Boost the needed technical assistance required by some countries and provided by others including leading International Organizations in the field;
- Exchange best practices in preserving religious and cultural heritage as well as prompting public awareness in this