Political, Religious Leaders Have Special Duty to Promote Peaceful Coexistence, Secretary-General Stresses in Statement on Intolerance, Hate-Based Violence

SG/SM/19559
29 April 2019

Political, Religious Leaders Have Special Duty to Promote Peaceful Coexistence, Secretary-General Stresses in Statement on Intolerance, Hate-Based Violence

The following statement by UN Secretary-General António Guterres was issued today:

Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of intolerance and hate-based violence targeting worshippers of many faiths.  In recent days alone, a synagogue in the United States and a church in Burkina Faso have come under attack.

Such incidents have become all too familiar:  Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Christians killed at prayer, their churches often torched.

Houses of worship, instead of the safe havens they should be, have become targets.  Beyond the murders, there is loathsome rhetoric:  xenophobia aimed not only at religious groups, but also at migrants, minorities and refugees; assertions of white supremacy; a resurgence of neo-Nazi ideology; venom directed at anyone considered the “other”.

Parts of the Internet are becoming hothouses of hate, as like-minded bigots find each other online, and platforms serve to inflame and enable hate to go viral.  As crime feeds on crime, and as vile views move from the fringes to the mainstream, I am profoundly concerned that we are nearing a pivotal moment in battling hatred and extremism.

That is why I have set in motion two urgent initiatives:  devising a plan of action to fully mobilize the United Nations system’s response to tackling hate speech, led by my Special Representative on Genocide Prevention; and exploring how the United Nations can contribute in ensuring the safety of religious sanctuaries, an effort being led by my High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.

The world must step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and incitement.  Hatred is a threat to everyone — and so this is a job for everyone.  Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence.  I will count on the strong support of Governments, civil society and other partners in working together to uphold the values that bind us as a single human family.

For information media. Not an official record.