UN chief hails Abu Dhabi fraternity document in fight against religious hatred

Interfaith deal was signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar in the UAE capital

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 4, 2020, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Millions of people around the world risk dying of hunger and the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change are increasing the threat, Guterres said on March 11, 2021.  / AFP / Angela Weiss
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday hailed the Abu Dhabi declaration on religious tolerance as central to global efforts against worrying levels of anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination.

In a statement marking International Day to Combat Islamophobia, he praised the interfaith agreement between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayeb in the UAE capital in 2019.

"As we move towards evermore multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies, we need political, cultural and economic investments to strengthen social cohesion and tackle bigotry," Mr Guterres said.

He said that the UN supports the “vital work towards fostering interfaith harmony such as the Document of Human Fraternity, co-authored by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb”.

The UN said there are growing global levels of hate speech and violence directed at Muslims, Christians and other members of minority groups.

A recent Human Rights Council report decried “epidemic proportions” of discrimination and hatred towards Muslims.

"Anti-Muslim bigotry is sadly in line with other distressing trends we are seeing globally – a resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable populations," Mr Guterres said.

“Let us also remember that many acts of intolerance and suspicion may not appear in official statistics – but those acts degrade people’s dignity and our common humanity.”

The UN General Assembly last year designated February 4 as the International Day of Human Fraternity, marking the date that Pope Francis and Dr Al Tayeb signed the Abu Dhabi declaration.