Adama Dieng of Senegal, who has served as registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a UN special adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and more recently an adviser on Sudan, was a keynote speaker at the 5-14 July Emerging Peacemakers Forum.
On peacebuilding, Dieng said, "We are witnessing growing and very worrying trends of intolerance, racism, xenophobia, and raging against certain groups, especially the poor.
"You also have Islamophobia and demonization of migrants and refugees that we see daily."
At the forum, 52 young people from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, the youngest being 20, are taking in the event hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Muslim Council of Elders, and Rose Castle Foundation, just outside Geneva, Switzerland.
The setting for the forum is the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, overlooked by Swiss Alpine mountains and Lake Leman.
As a Muslim, Dieng said in an interview, he had encountered the WCC Programme to Combat Racism in the last century when it was advised by Beyers Naude, who had once defended apartheid but became one of the racist ideology's most vehement critics.
"We are highlighting hatred against Muslims mainly because of the confusion created by fanatics and those seen as crazy leaders. But they are not crazy.
"I'm referring here to the so-called Islamic state or Daesh," said Dieng.
To counter the effects of a terror group like Daesh, he cited the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi Declaration or Abu Dhabi Agreement.
It was a joint statement signed by Roman Catholic leader Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
The document emerged from an open discussion between Francis and Tayeb. It was concerned with how different faiths can live peacefully in the same world, and it is meant to be a guide on advancing a "culture of mutual respect.”
"We have to accept each one because they are simply human beings like us," said Dieng.
"God loves diversity. And that's why he stated that I created you as diverse nations, tribes, etc. So that you know each other and that you love each other.
"So that means you have to redouble your efforts. You have to be encouraged and, most importantly, remain vigilant," said Deng, using the quote, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Such vigilance was missing and led to what was witnessed in Rwanda during the genocidal massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in 1994 and was also missing before the Russian war in Ukraine that ratcheted up in February 2022.
Dieng cited the South African philosophy called ubuntu, and the late Desmond Tutu often noted, that says, "I am because you are. And I am glad whenever I see him because when I see, it's like if I will see myself."
In 2021 the then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, designated Dieng as an expert on human rights in Sudan, following a request from the UN Human Rights Council.