UN Boss urges faith leaders to challenge inaccurate, harmful messages amid COVID-19 pandemic

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan. 6, 2020. Antonio Guterres on Monday called on parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to stop escalation of global tensions. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan. 6, 2020. Antonio Guterres on Monday called on parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to stop escalation of global tensions. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called on faith leaders to actively challenge inaccurate and harmful messages while the COVID-19 pandemic continues ravaging the world.

“I ask faith leaders to actively challenge inaccurate and harmful messages, and encourage all communities to promote non-violence and reject xenophobia, racism and all forms of intolerance,” the UN chief said at the high-level video conference “The Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing the Multiple Challenges of COVID-19.”

Guterres expressed his gratitude to religious leaders for supporting his appeal for a global ceasefire so that the international community can together focus on fighting the shared enemy — COVID-19.

The UN chief called for a global truce in the world’s conflict zones on March 23 in order to protect vulnerable civilians from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Yet we continue to see conflicts rage in many places — along with a rise in ethno-nationalism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable communities and exacerbating suffering. Meanwhile, extremists and radical groups are seeking to exploit eroding trust in leadership and feed on people’s vulnerability to serve their own ends,” Guterres told religious leaders.

The secretary-general also appealed to them to “categorically condemn” violence against women and girls as the pandemic spreads and support shared principles of partnership, equality, respect and compassion.

He called on religious leaders to leverage their networks and communication capacities to support governments in promoting World Health Organization-recommended public health measures — from physical distancing to good hygiene — and to ensure that faith-based activities, including worship, religious ceremonies and burial practices, comply with these measures.

Speaking of other roles that religious leaders can play, Guterres said that at a time when the vast majority of the world’s students are out of school or university, “I urge faith leaders to support the continuity of education, working with education providers to find solutions so that learning never stops.” Enditem

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