Guterres, in a message on the International Day dedicated to honouring Holocaust victims, marked annually on Jan. 27, said everyone had a responsibility to quickly and decisively resist racism and violence.
He recalled that the Day was created to honour the memory of six million Jewish men, women and children that perished in the Holocaust and countless others who lost their lives as cruelty convulsed the world.
Yet, decades since the Second World War, there is still the persistence of anti-Semitism and an increase in other forms of prejudice, the UN chief regretted.
Citing Neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups as among the main purveyors of extreme hatred, the UN chief said that too often, vile views were moving from the margins to the mainstream of societies and politics.
“Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at risk. All of us have a responsibility to quickly, clearly and decisively resist racism and violence.
“Through education and understanding, we can build a future of dignity, human rights and peaceful coexistence for all,” the Secretary-General stressed.
For his part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al Hussein held the painful day of remembrance for Holocaust the victims as forcing us “to contemplate the horrors to which bigotry, racism and ultimately lead”.
“The sadistic brutality of the atrocities inflicted by the Nazi regime on Jews, Roma, Slavs, disabled people, political dissidents, homosexuals and others was nourished by layer upon layer of propaganda, falsifications and incitement to hatred,” he stated.
“As we honour the victims of the Holocaust, we must also acknowledge the need to prevent the recurrence of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and religious hatred and discrimination today.”
He specified the importance of upholding independent rule of law institutions and a free press; maintaining respect for human rights; and education, which must be at the core of all efforts to combat anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination.
“In honouring the victims of the Holocaust, we must recognise that only if we regard each other as fully equal in dignity and rights will we be able to come together to overcome the many challenges facing humanity,” Zeid said.
At the same time, Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), cited the Day as a call to strengthen nations’ commitment to peace.
“Recalling the possibility of the worst, also carries a memory that must be forward-looking”, she said, adding that combating anti-Semitism, in whatever form, “is at the heart of this fight” in which everyone has a role to play.
“We can build up awareness against forgetting, denial, historical revisionism, relativisation of crimes and the return of stereotypes that fuel hatred. We can oppose the manipulation of facts by speaking the truth,” Azoulay stressed. (NAN)