World must stamp out persecution of religious groups, Guterres says on new UN Day
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an end to the persecution of religious groups on Thursday, the first ever International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion and Belief, which is marked on 22nd August.
The Day was created in response to an increasing number of attacks against individuals and groups, targeted simply because of their religion or belief, around the world.
Guterres declared that the Day was an opportunity to reaffirm support for the victims of violence based on religion and belief, adding that “we demonstrate that support by doing all in our power to prevent such attacks and demanding that those responsible are held accountable.”
Pointing out that all major world religions espouse tolerance and peaceful coexistence, the UN chief urged resistance to, and rejection of, those who “falsely and maliciously invoke religion to build misconceptions, fuel division and spread fear and hatred”, noting that there is richness and strength in diversity, which is never a threat.
The Secretary-General drew attention to two new initiatives set up to overcome the threat of violence based on religion and belief: a UN strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, and a Plan of Action to safeguard religious sites.
In a message released on the Day, Guterres said that the best way to overcome the threat of violence based on religion and belief is by “uniting our voices for good, countering messages of hate with messages of peace, embracing diversity and protecting human rights.”
The world, he added, must step up to stamp out all forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and incitement to violence. ”As members of the human family, we must nurture mutual understanding. We all have a responsibility to look out for each other, to respect differences and to promote peaceful coexistence,” he concluded.