Warning against rising intolerance, UN...
Calling the Holocaust “an unparalleled crime against humanity,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that “history keeps moving forward, but anti-Semitism keeps coming back.”
He noted that after the Holocaust, the world seemed eager to find a more cooperative path, which led to the creation of the United Nations with its Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.
“Humankind dared to believe that tribal identities would diminish in importance. We were wrong,” the Secretary-General said. “Irrationality and intolerance are back.”
Addressing representatives from the 193 Member States gathered in the General Assembly Hall to mark the annual Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Mr. Guterres said that today anti-Semitism continues, alongside racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, triggered by populism and gaining ground in public discourse.
'Dehumanization took hold and the descent into barbarity was quick’
He voiced his extreme concern at the discrimination faced by immigrants, refugees and minorities across the world, particularly the stereotyping of Muslims, referring to how the Holocaust was allowed to spread: “Hardships and instability created fertile groups for scapegoating."
Drawing attention to the powerful exhibit now at UN Headquarters called ‘State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,’ he said propaganda helped erode the bonds of humanity. The word “Jewish” was used constantly in association with society’s ills. “Ultimately indifference prevailed, dehumanization took hold, and the descent into barbarity was quick,” he told those gathered at the ceremony, which this year focuses on educating for a better future.
History created lessons for our time, Mr. Guterres said, urging the international community to be vigilant, invest in education and youth, and to strengthen social cohesion “so that people feel that diversity is a plus, not a threat.”
In addition to remembering the survivors and victims of the Holocaust, 27 January was adopted by the General Assembly to condemn any denial of the Holocaust and to urge all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust.
The UN chief spoke personally about the history of Jews in his home country, Portugal, noting that anti-Semitism is “more than a question of religion, [it] is essentially an expression of racism.”
Annual General Assembly Commemoration
Today’s event in the General Assembly Hall started with recognition of the Holocaust survivors and Red Army veterans in attendance and a minute of silence for the millions of people killed in Europe in the years leading up to 1945. It featured soulful performances by Jewish singers and musicians, as well as a dramatic recitation of memorial prayers.
The ceremony also paid tribute to UN Messenger of Peace and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who died last year.
The President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, began his remarks by quoting Mr. Wiesel, asking: “‘How does one mourn for fix million people who died? How many candles does one light? How many prayers does one recite?’”
Mr. Thomson called for a rededication “to learning the lessons of the past so that humanity may never repeat such atrocities in the future.”
He called for education to teach the dangers of extremism, the importance of defending the vulnerable, and the need to stand up against racism and prejudice.
“Interfaith dialogue, respect for human rights, and the embracing of democratic and humanist values at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central responsibilities for us all,” Mr. Thomson said, in reference to the 17 targets aiming to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
“Young people must be taught the ethics and logic inherent in defending our common humanity, of preventing mass atrocity crimes, and of bringing perpetrators to justice,” he added.
This is a summary of the news, for details go to: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56058