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20 June 2019

We Must Extinguish Faith-Based Violence, Xenophobia by Tackling Hate Speech, Protecting Religious Sites, Secretary-General Tells Interfaith Summit

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message, delivered by Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, to the Interfaith Summit coordinated by the New York Board of Rabbis in cooperation with the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities and the United Arab Emirates, in New York, today:

I am honoured to address this Interfaith Summit and to offer my best wishes to your timely initiative.  Around the world, we are seeing a menacing wave of intolerance and hate-based violence targeting worshippers of many faiths.  Sadly – and disturbingly – such vicious incidents are becoming all too familiar.  In recent months alone, we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched.  Houses of worship must always be safe havens.

Beyond the violent attacks, there is an increasingly loathsome rhetoric directed at anyone considered the “other”:  xenophobia aimed not only at religious groups, but also at minorities, migrants and refugees.  Social media is being exploited for bigotry.  Hate speech is spreading like wildfire and we must extinguish it.

I have announced two United Nations initiatives in response:  one, in support of the protection of religious sites; the other, launched earlier this week, to tackle hate speech.

There are those who insist on using fear to divide communities.  To them, we say:  diversity is a richness, never a threat.  As part of one humanity, it is our duty to look after each other.  Hatred is a menace to everyone – and so fighting it is a job for everyone.

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.  Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence.  I thank you for your efforts and count on your active partnership as we strive to uphold the values that bind us together as a single human family.

For information media. Not an official record.