UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Pope Francis and others on Thursday marked the first Human Fraternity Day, a UAE-backed effort to spend 24 hours focused on fighting hate speech and religious bigotry.
Mr Guterres pre-recorded comments for an online event with envoys from the UAE and Egypt, which last year led a successful plan to designate February 4 as the UN's annual International Day of Human Fraternity.
“As we commemorate Human Fraternity Day, let us commit to do more to promote cultural and religious tolerance, understanding and dialogue,” Mr Guterres said.
“Cultural diversity and freedom of belief are part of the rich tapestry of civilisation.”
Pope Francis marked the new global day in a message to his 19 million Twitter followers, writing: “Let us pray and work each and every day so that everyone might live fraternally together in our world and in peace.”
The UN’s 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution drafted by the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in December, designating February 4 as the global celebration of fraternity.
The date commemorates a meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi in 2019. The two faith leaders also pre-recorded video messages for the virtual celebration.
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s UN envoy, said the world had been ravaged by the deadly coronavirus pandemic since that meeting, exacerbating “deep-rooted inequalities” that must be combated.
“Today, now more than ever, all of us have a role to play in fostering peaceful and inclusive societies,” Ms Nusseibeh.
"Tragically, hate speech is becoming too prevalent around the world. Violence against places of worship and minorities continues to escalate.”
The envoy said promoting tolerance was a “key priority” in the UAE’s bid to secure a temporary seat on the Security Council, the UN’s top decision-making body, for 2022-2023
Mr Guterres was on Wednesday jointly awarded the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, a new UAE prize. The UN chief said he would donate his $500,000 prize money to the UN's refugee agency.