In Christchurch, UN Chief Calls for Tolerance

On a three-day visit to New Zealand, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid his respects on May 13 to the Muslim martyrs of the horrific Christchurch massacre which shocked the Pacific nation two months ago, UN News reported.

“Like so many around the world, I had been moved by the poignant stories of compassion and grace from Christchurch. But in many ways, I wasn’t surprised. This community reflected a spirit that I’ve always known to be deeply embedded in Islam – a faith of love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy,” Guterres said.

The UN Chief called for solidarity to counter the recent upsurge in hate speech.

He visited both Linwood Mosque, where he laid a wreath and Al Noor mosque where he addressed the Muslim community saying 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.”

Thanking the Christchurch Muslim community, he said: “for doing what you’re doing to help us better know each other – and see our shared humanity. In these trying times, I am here to say with a full heart: You are not alone. The world is with you. The United Nations is with you. I am with you.”

In Christchurch, UN Chief Calls for Tolerance - About Islam

UN Photo/Mark Garten The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, lays a wreath in Christchurch memory of the victims of a mass shooting in the New Zealand city in March 2019.

He recalled that as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he had seen witness “the generosity of Muslim countries opening their borders to people in distress in a world where so many other borders are closed.”

“This is in line with what I regard as the most beautiful prescription for refugee protection in world history. It’s found in the Surah Al-Tawbah of the Holy Qur’an: ‘And if anyone seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he can hear the words of Allah. Then escort him where he can be secure,’” quoted Guterres.

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.

In Christchurch, UN Chief Calls for Tolerance - About Islam

UN Photo/Mark Garten
Secretary-General António Guterres speaks to the press after visiting Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, to pay respects and show solidarity for Ramadan. The Mosque was the first site of two terrorist attacks that took place on 15 March 2019.

Meanwhile, 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. There’s no room for hate speech – online or offline,” he said while quoting the Holy Qur’an: ‘We … made you into races and tribes so that you may know one another.’

Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand’s 3rd most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.

Due to safety fears, Muslim elders are considering canceling four large Ramadan gatherings in Christchurch.

After the massacre, many Muslims in Christchurch were scared of attending big gatherings.