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In Christchurch, UN chief calls for tolerance, solidarity to extinguish ‘wildfire’ of hate speech

UN Photo/Mark Garten
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, lays a wreath at one of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, where worshipers were shot dead in March 2019. (May 2019)

On a three-day visit to New Zealand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid his respects to the victims of the horrific mosque attacks in Christchurch, where dozens of Muslims were gunned down in two separate incidents during Friday prayers on 15 March.

Calling for solidarity to  counter the recent upsurge in hate speech, the UN chief visited both Linwood Mosque, where he laid a wreath, and Al Noor mosque. On 15 March, a lone gunman killed 51 people at the two places of worship while livestreaming the attacks on social media.

At Al Noor mosque on Tuesday, Mr. Guterres told the Muslim community that while there were no words to relieve the hurt and sorrow and pain, “I wanted to come here personally to transmit love, support and total and complete admiration.”

“We must stand together in this period of difficulties,” said the UN chief, adding that: “Hate speech is spreading and public discourse is being coarsened. Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry. We must all show solidarity in response to this dangerous upsurge in hatred.”

There is no room for hate speech

The Secretary-General spotlighted two recent initiatives he has set in motion two initiatives, respectively to protect holy sites and to address hate speech.

He has asked the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, to develop an Action Plan for the UN to be fully engaged in support of safeguarding religious sites.

Meanwhile, Mr. Guterres has also asked his Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to bring together a UN team to scale up our response to hate speech and present a global plan of action.

“Hate speech is spreading like wildfire in social media. We must extinguish it,” said the Secretary-General, declaring: “There is no room for hate speech – online or offline.”



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