U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said politicians must assume responsibility when xenophobia takes root in their societies.
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. chief Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that world leaders have a duty to reject hate speech and xenophobia, days after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that he described as the “most abject act of anti-Semitism that has happened in the history of the United Nations.”
Speaking at a New York synagogue, Guterres described witnessing rising anti-Semitism since taking over the U.N.’s top job in 2017, and said the trend seems most pronounced in Europe and North America.
Referencing an unspecified political rally (possibly 2017’s Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia), Guterres described hearing the chant, “blood and soil” and realizing that while to some the term sounded only like an “expression of patriotism,” the term had “special meaning in the Nazi ideology.”
“This is something we need to be very attentive in our societies because one of the logics of extremist organizations is to, in a subtle way, try to penetrate the mainstream and make some of their idiot ideas being accepted as a new normal in our societies.”
Guterres said the increasing impulse to blame religious minorities, migrants or refugees for societal problems could owe itself to a sense by some that they’ve been left behind by globalization or technological progress.
To address some of those those insecurities, he encouraged politicians to make “massive investments in education” and upgrade social safety nets.
And in a veiled swipe at President Trump – who has refused to concede that charged rhetoric directed at the media, immigrants or political opponents could incite others to violence – Guterres said leaders can’t disconnect themselves as hatred bubbles up around them.
“We have to condemn. We have to speak up. We have to be very firm in denouncing horrendous acts like the one in Pittsburgh, but we need to assume our responsibilities as leaders to prevent these things to happen.”