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Holocaust commemoration: UN chief urges world to stand against hate



UN Secretary General, António Guterres has urged Member States to stand against hate.

According to him, hate is growing at an alarming rate, and the world must strongly denounce forces of division, especially in the wake of the abhorrent October 7 terror attacks in Israel.

Guterres made the call at the opening ceremony of an event to commemorate the memory of the victims of the holocaust at UN headquarters on Friday.

“All of us – leaders and citizens – have a responsibility to listen and to learn from survivors and victims by condemning these terrible crimes against humanity” he said.

“We should strive to eradicate antisemitism and all forms of bigotry, hatred and intolerance and by finding a way forward to a shared, safe and inclusive future for all” he added.

“This is particularly important in today’s dangerous and divided world and a few short months after Hamas’ horrific terror attacks, in which so many innocent Israeli civilians and citizens of other countries were killed,” he said.

The world must resolve to “stand up against the forces of hate and division”, he continued.

The antisemitic hate that fuelled the Holocaust did not start with the Nazis nor did it end with their defeat, he said, but was preceded by thousands of years of discrimination, expulsion, exile and extermination.

“Today, we are witnessing hate spreading at alarming speed,” the UN chief said, adding: “Online, it has moved from the margins to the mainstream.”

To combat hate, he urged all to speak out.

“Let us never be silent in the face of discrimination, and never tolerant of intolerance.

“Let us speak out for human rights and the dignity of all. Let us never lose sight of each other’s humanity, and never let down our guard,” he said.

In addition to its Outreach Programme on the Holocaust, the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech sets out strategic guidance at national and global levels.

“To all who confront prejudice and persecution, let us clearly say: you are not alone.

“The United Nations stands with you,” Guterres said.

“Today, of all days, we must remember that demonisation of the other and disdain for diversity is a danger to everyone, that no society is immune to intolerance and worse and that bigotry against one group is bigotry against all,” he added.

Dennis Francis, President of the General Assembly, said, in a pre-recorded video message, that promoting remembrance and education regarding the Holocaust is essential to ensuring that the crime of genocide is never seen as either normal or justifiable in any circumstance and to working towards ensuring it is never repeated.

“Today, those who tragically perished and the survivors are the powerful force behind all we do at the United Nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to promote and defend human rights and to work relentlessly for a more just and peaceful world,” he said.

The stories of victims and survivors are the reminders of “our duty to counter hatred and intolerance” amid a surge in hate speech across the world alongside rising antisemitism and xenophobia.

“We cannot and must not be complacent,” he said.

“Today and every day, we must recommit to say more than just ‘never again’.

We must live our lives daily by this mantra.

The Holocaust must forever be a warning to all of us to stay vigilant against widespread hatred, racism, prejudice and intolerance.”

Also speaking, Israel’s Ambassador Gilad Erdan said the attack on Israel on Oct. 7 by Hamas was “an attempted genocide”.

“We, the Jewish people, understand the meaning of genocide more than any other people,” he said.

“We have been persecuted for millennia. Hitler seared the meaning of genocide into our DNA.”

But, on Oct. 7, Hamas “tore open that wound”, he said, patting a yellow star, a badge the Nazi regime forced Jewish people to wear, affixed to his lapel.

“On International Holocaust Remembrance Day…I stand here, in the name of the State of Israel, in the name of all those murdered by the Nazis and Hamas, and I swear, we will not forget. Never again is now.”

Cecilia Ologunagba

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