UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ With the recent demolition of two ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan, the U.N. General Assembly passed its first resolution protecting religious sites.

The resolution, passed Thursday, calls on countries to adopt measures aimed at preventing acts or threats of violence against religious sites and to promote a culture of tolerance and respect for them.

``Today is a turning point. The international community has come to take a stand,'' said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which is devoted to religious freedom and international human rights issues.

As a boy in Austria, ``I saw my synagogue set ablaze and that image of my synagogue burning down has haunted me and stayed with me to this day,'' Schneier said. ``Had there been this kind of resolution in 1938, maybe my synagogue would still be standing today.''

Schneier was flanked by other senior religious leaders including the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios, Reverend Fred Anderson, a pastor at a New York Presbyterian Church and Mohammad Mostafa Ibrahim Jumeiah, a Muslim cleric in New York.

The religious leaders said desecration of holy sites continues, with the burning of dozens of churches in the United States in the 1990s and the destruction of mosques and churches during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

The members of the foundation did not propose any specific measures or future action that they would take to ensure the safety of religious sites, but said that they would continue their efforts to speak out against future desecration and to promote religious tolerance around the world.

Schneier said that the resolution was inspired by various meetings he held with religious leaders during the 1990s, where the destruction of religious sites was a ``recurrent theme.''