"It is the Government's intention to soon launch a training and capacity building programme for public sector professionals, central and local, which will focus on the diversity, cultural and religious equality that characterises our country," the minister said at the closing session of a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the Religious Freedom Law in Portugal.

The conference, organised by the High Commission for Migrations, was held at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon on the National Day for Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue.

In her closing speech, Mariana Vieira da Silva justified the Government's initiative with the times we are living "in which this work is necessary" and in which all over the world, "and in these things no country is an oasis", values and principles of tolerance, pluralism and cooperation are being questioned.

"And it is through dialogue, education and mutual understanding that we can contribute to preventing extremist positions or the growth of intolerance," the minister said.

Mariana Vieira da Silva pointed out the importance of inter-religious dialogue for cohesion policies and stressed the fundamental dialogue and that has always existed between Government and religious communities to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We have always counted on the availability of the representatives of the religious communities", he said, thanking them publicly for their availability, both at the most difficult times of the pandemic and now, during the vaccination process.

A support and collaboration that would not exist if there was not a work of trust and sharing over many years, she said, adding that the inter-religious harmony that exists in the country is fundamental for the integration of all citizens in the national community.

Mariana Vieira da Silva quoted former President of the Republic Mário Soares to stress the importance of respecting religious pluralism and concluded that it is important to seek dialogue, cooperation, the defence of the values of equality, interculturality and non-discrimination.

Vera Jardim, President of the Commission for Religious Freedom, also in the closing session of the conference, recalled the creation of the Religious Freedom Law 20 years ago, said that since then the "religious universe" has changed radically in Portugal, regretted that the European Parliament had rejected the creation of a day of religious freedom, and also regretted that the commission she chairs is not consulted more often by the Government.