United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia” sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets,” Guterres said in a statement. “Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”
He said it without naming specific countries.
“COVID19 does not care who we are, where we live, or what we believe,” he said.
He called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on digital literacy at a time when extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.
According to the UN chief, migrants and refugees have been “vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.”
“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”
He also called on the media, especially social media, to remove racist, misogynist and other harmful content, on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as models of mutual respect.