Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief, observed on 22 August:
The right to freedom of religion or belief is firmly trenched in international human rights law and is a cornerstone for inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies.
Yet, across the world, we continue to witness deep-seated discrimination against religious minorities, attacks on people and religious sites, and hate crimes and atrocity crimes targeting populations simply because of their religion or belief. While societies have shown resilience and strength in the face of COVID-19, the pandemic has also been accompanied by a surge in stigma and racist discourse vilifying communities, spreading vile stereotypes and assigning blame.
As we commemorate the victims, we must do more to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination by promoting inclusion and respect for diversity. We must also ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable.
States have the primary responsibility to protect the right to freedom of religion and belief. I have also made this a priority through initiatives such as a Call to Action for Human Rights, a Strategy on Hate Speech and a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites.
This extraordinary moment calls on all of us to work together as one human family to defeat a disease and put an end to hate and discrimination.