UN chief demands that the world step up to stamp out hatred

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres demanded Monday that the world "step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and incitement."

The U.N. chief said he was responding to incidents "that have become all-too familiar — Muslims gunned down in mosques and their religious sites vandalized, Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas, Christians killed at prayer, their churches often torched."

Guterres cited the most recent incidents: Saturday's shootings at a synagogue in California that killed one woman and Sunday's attack on a Christian church in Burkina Faso that killed the pastor and five others.

Beyond the murders of worshippers, he said, "there is loathsome rhetoric" aimed not only at religious groups but at migrants and refugees as well as "assertions of white supremacy, a resurgence of neo-Nazi ideology (and) venom directed at anyone considered the 'other.'"

Guterres said "parts of the internet are becoming hothouses of hate, as like-minded bigots find each other online, and platforms serve to inflame and enable hate to go viral."

The secretary-general has been speaking out against hatred and intolerance for months as well as rising polarization and populism within nations, ebbing cooperation among them, and "fragile" trust in international institutions. And he has said "democratic principles are under siege."

But this statement was his strongest call for global action in the face of escalating deadly attacks — including on mosques in New Zealand and churches in Sri Lanka that caused mass casualties.

The secretary-general said he has launched two urgent initiatives to devise "a plan of action to fully mobilize the United Nations system's response to tackling hate speech" and to see what the U.N. can contribute to ensure the safety of religious sanctuaries.

The initiative on hate speech is being led by his special envoy on preventing genocide and the initiative on safety for religious sanctuaries is being led by the head of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations.

"Hatred is a threat to everyone — and so this is a job for everyone," Guterres said in a statement.

But he said political and religious leaders "have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence."

"I will count on the strong support of governments, civil society and other partners in working together to uphold the values that bind us as a single human family," he said.