New York

22 May 2020

UN Secretary-General's remarks to OIC Member States on "COVID-19 Solidarity: Promoting Co-Existence and Shared Responsibility"

Your Excellency Ambassador Nusseibeh, Excellencies, Dear Friends, 

Eid Mubarak!  

I am honoured to extend my warmest wishes to you, your governments and all of your citizens.

Let me begin by thanking all of the members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for coming together in this unique way at this unique time.

You have successfully experienced a Ramadan like no other, in a time like no other.

As you know, dating back to my days as High Commissioner for Refugees, I have made it a tradition to undertake Ramadan solidarity visits each year with Muslim communities around the world.

As Secretary-General, I visited Afghanistan in 2017; Mali in 2018; and last year the Muslim community of Christchurch, New Zealand in the wake of that cold-blooded terror attack.

This year, COVID-19 made the tradition of a Ramadan solidarity visit difficult – but not impossible.

Thanks to you.

This year my solidarity visit is virtual – and it’s with all of you.  

This is an opportunity to hear from you, to reinforce my commitment, and to wish you well on this joyous occasion.  

A lesson from a Hadith by the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him) comes to mind and I believe perfectly characterizes these trying times.

The Hadith includes a reflection of seeing believers “showing love among themselves and being kind, resembling one body, so that, if any part of the body is not well then the whole body shares the sleeplessness and fever with it.”

Indeed, this pandemic has demonstrated our inter-connections, our inter-dependence, and also our fragility.

Our world is like one body.  As long as one part is affected by this virus, we all are affected. 

Now more than ever, solidarity and unity must be our leading principles.

Solidarity for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive health response, guided by the WHO, with a focus on developing countries, pooling our efforts for those at greatest risk, and strengthening health systems as well as our humanitarian response.

Solidarity in tackling the devastating social and economic dimensions of the crisis – keeping households afloat and businesses solvent.  And prioritizing the most affected: women, older people, children, low-wage earners and other vulnerable groups.

Solidarity for peace.  And I thank so many of you for supporting my appeal for a global ceasefire to focus on the fight against the virus.  

I also want to again express my gratitude to governments and people throughout the Muslim world who live by their faith, supporting those fleeing conflict in the best Islamic tradition of hospitality and generosity – a remarkable lesson in this world where so many doors have been closed to those in need of protection, even before COVID-19.

This giving spirit is fully in line with a beautiful prescription for refugee protection found in the Surat Al-Tawbah of the Holy Quran:

And if anyone of the non-believers “seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he can hear the words of God. Then escort him where he can be secure.”

What a meaningful practical example of tolerance – centuries before the 1951 Refugee Convention that defines in a modern concept the refugees and the protection they deserve.


We also need solidarity in speaking out against the rise in ethno-nationalism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable communities and exacerbating suffering.

You have my total commitment to actively challenge inaccurate and harmful messages, promote non-violence and reject anti-Muslim bigotry, hate and all forms of intolerance. 

I salute the efforts of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity – as we saw in the very moving video – for the 14 May Global Prayer for Humanity inspired by the interfaith leadership of His Holiness Pope Francis, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, and many others.

And, finally, we need solidarity to ensure that the recovery from the crisis leads to more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are stronger and more resilient.

As millions of Muslims around the world celebrate, let us draw from the many Ramadan lessons of mercy and compassion, of dignity and rights, of mutual respect and understanding, of unity and solidarity.

Let us recognize, above all, that we are indeed one body.  One world.  And one United Nations.  

Thank you.