Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the 96th Street Mosque, in New York today:
As salaam alaikum. Thank you very much. I am here on this holy day to express my solidarity and to offer my support to you, to your community and to your families.
We are still reeling from last Friday’s terrorist attack in New Zealand. At the same time, we have come to learn so many inspiring stories about the victims. I was deeply moved by the words of a worshipper as he saw a stranger walk into the Christchurch mosque. He did not realize that this stranger was a terrorist, and the worshipper’s words to him were of welcome and love. “Hello, brother,” he said.
This is the spirit deeply embedded in Islam, a religion I so much respect — the face of love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and grace. As United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I saw the generosity of Muslim countries always opening their borders to people in distress in a world where, unfortunately, so many borders are closed. This is in line with what I regard as the most beautiful prescription for refugee protection in world history. It is found in the Sura al-Tawbah of the Holy Quran. And I quote: “If anyone seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he can hear the words of Allah. Then escort him where he can be secure.”
This protection was to be applied to both believers and non-believers, which shows the character of openness, of mutual respect, that is absolutely remarkable and should be understood by the world today. And this was revealed to the Prophet more than 14 centuries before the 1951 Convention on the Protection of Refugees.
We must stay together in a spirit [inaudible]. As Sura al-Baqarah reminds us, and I quote: “Goodness does not consist in turning your face towards east or west.” Rather, as the Sura develops, it consists in such things as giving away some wealth to the needy, liberating those from bondage and being steadfast in misfortune and adversity.
I know these are trying times, but I am here to say, with a heart that is heavy but full, that you are not alone, that the world is with you. The United Nations is with you. And I am with you. Thank you.