In commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, has called for a global action against messages and ideas that divide rather than unite humanity.

The UN General Assembly, in a show of solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement, set aside the day to commemorate the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, where 69 people were killed.

?I call on all people, especially political, civic and religious leaders, to strongly condemn messages and ideas based on racism, racial superiority or hatred as well as those that incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

?On this day, let us acknowledge that racial discrimination remains a dangerous threat and resolve to tackle it through dialogue inspired by the proven ability of individuals to respect, protect and defend our rich diversity as one human family,? he said.

The UN scribe particularly paid tribute to the late former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, for his courageous struggle against apartheid and his victory over racism.

He noted that the day was being commemorated for the first time after the death of Mandela.

?This sad reality is also a reminder of his courageous struggle against apartheid and his inspiring victory over the racist forces that had imprisoned him for 27 years. Many others were injured as police opened fire on a peaceful protest against South Africa?s appalling pass laws,? Ban said.

The secretary-general stated that Mandela?s journey from prisoner to President was the triumph of an extraordinary individual against the forces of hate, ignorance and fear.

?It was a testimony to the power of courage, reconciliation and forgiveness to overcome the injustice of racial discrimination,? Ban said.

He said that Mandela also chose Sharpeville for the historic signing of South Africa?s new Constitution in 1996.

?Today, we remember Sharpeville as a symbol of the terrible toll of racial discrimination, and we honour those who lost their lives during the massacre.

?At the same time, we recall that President Mandela framed Sharpeville?s legacy as an unwavering resolve to protect the dignity and rights of all people,? he said.

Ban said the lessons of South Africa?s staunch defence of equality ?out of the many Sharpevilles? in the country?s history, could be applied anywhere in the world.

According to him, the lesson can be applied not only in response to organised institutional forms of racism, but wherever this pernicious problem occurs, including in daily interpersonal relations.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

In South Africa, the day is observed as Human Rights Day, a public holiday to commemorate the lives lost to fight for democracy and equal human rights during the Apartheid.

The apartheid regime in South Africa took place between 1948 to 1994 when the white minority ruled the African majority and the two were forced to live apart.

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