The UN Secretary-General has called for more commitment towards promoting cultural and religious tolerance, in a message to mark the first celebration of the International Day of Human Fraternity, observed on Thursday.
“Around the world, deep-seated discrimination, acts of intolerance and hate crimes persist against people simply because of their religion or belief, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation”, he said in a video broadcast during a commemorative event, held online.
Describing these “vile acts” as an affront to human rights and UN values, he underscored how cultural diversity and freedom of belief are part of the “rich tapestry” of humanity.
“As we commemorate the International Day of Human Fraternity, let us commit to do more to promote cultural and religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue.”
Dialogue across ‘the faith spectrum’
The designation of 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity is the result of a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in December, which was co-sponsored by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Secretary-General applauded all UN Member States who supported the resolution, while also acknowledging a 2019 declaration by head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egyptian Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, on “human fraternity for world peace”.
“I thank both religious leaders for using their voice to promote interfaith dialogue, mutual respect and understanding across the faith spectrum. In these trying times, we need this spirit more than ever”, he said.
‘Antidote’ to hate
Promoting peace, love and fraternity has been a consistent message from religious figures throughout history, according to the head of a UN platform for improving cross-cultural relations.
Miguel Ángel Moratinos High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), said it is even more relevant today.
“Observing an international day of Human Fraternity is needed now more than ever before, considering the deplorable fragmentation of our world today. We are not only facing the ramifications of a pandemic, but also the contagious virus of hate, discrimination and racism”, he said.
“The antidote or best antibodies to hate is human fraternity, which embodies compassion, solidarity, unity and mutual respect.”
Relatedly, the UN Secretary-General is co-recipient of an award inspired by the 2019 declaration signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
Mr. Guterres and Moroccan-French activist Latifa ibn Ziaten, were joint recipients of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, awarded during a separate virtual event held earlier on Thursday, from Abu Dabhi, UAE.
In his acceptance speech, the Secretary-General congratulated Ms. ibn Ziaten, who works to raise awareness about religious extremism, having lost her son, Imad, in a terrorist attack in 2012.
“Her dedicated efforts to support young people and promote mutual understanding, arising out of immense personal tragedy, have won admirers at home and beyond”, he said.
Mr. Guterres will donate the $500,000 prize money to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, “to buttress its indispensable efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – the forcibly displaced.”