New York

02 October 2013

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at Memorial Service for the Victims of the Nairobi Terrorist Attack [as prepared for delivery]

We gather today in shock, outrage and deep sorrow, to commemorate the dead and pray for the recovery of those who were injured in the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

Our thoughts are also with the families and friends of the dead, the injured and those still missing.  We hope they will find the strength to bear the burden of this tragedy.

The Secretary-General, I and our colleagues at the United Nations share your grief and anger.  We stand at the side of the leadership and people of the country in this most trying, most painful, of moments.

Kenya hosts thousands of United Nations national and international staff.  It is our valued headquarters in Africa.  It is a cherished United Nations “home”.

All those harmed in Nairobi deserved to be free to go about their daily business without fear of attack from the forces of extremism.

Their sense of peace and security was cruelly shattered.

The scars will be slow to heal.

It is deeply disheartening that far too many people bear this heavy burden all over our globe. 

The weekend of the Nairobi attack saw massive loss of life in Baghdad and Peshawar.

Last weekend in Nigeria, students were slaughtered in their sleep.

Nothing can justify these acts of terror and the countless others like them taking place, seemingly every day and night, in different parts of our world.

Amid the grief and sorrow, there is reason to worry that the senseless slaughter is also numbing us.  That we will become numb and indifferent to the ongoing horrors and brutalization.

We must not.  This ceremony gives us the pause, the moment, to remember that in Nairobi we have lost mothers, fathers, siblings, children, husbands, wives, friends, and colleagues.

We have lost the miraculous promise held by each human life, and the joy of its unfolding until its natural end.  This is a staggering loss.  A loss we must not forget.

We must recommit to the founding principle of the United Nations – faith in the dignity and worth of every human being.

We have to work together to end the menace of terrorism. 

At times like these, we are reminded so starkly of both the worst and the best of which human beings are capable.
In the face of this blind violence, we can take heart from the acts of courage shown that day. 

Kamal Kaur was hosting a cookery competition for some 30 children.  As people trampled them in their panic, she gathered the children and huddled in a corner.

Satpal Singh, Abdul Haji and many others risked their lives to help people escape.

While these glimpses of bravery are a small consolation for the grievous losses suffered by the loved ones of those we are here to honour, they show that where there is humanity there is hope.

So, as beautifully put by the Reverend Fred Kaan in the hymn chosen for this service, let us learn “how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase”.

This Sunday, Nairobi's Asian Muslim community made a human chain around the mall, prayed for the victims and held a minute's silence.

They represent the majority of peace-loving people in this world, who are rising in solidarity with the victims in Nairobi.

We need to make sure that these are the voices that resound, not the voices of hate and division.

The best way we can honour the victims of Westgate Mall is to work together for a better future for all humankind.

Our hearts go out to all Kenyans as they recover from this dreadful tragedy.