We Must All ‘Push Back against Hatred, Intolerance, Wherever We Find It’, Says Secretary-General, Commemorating 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in New York today:

The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda 30 years ago is a stain on our collective consciousness and a brutal reminder of the legacy of colonialism, and the consequences of hate speech.

Over the course of 100 days, 1 million people were killed.  The vast majority were Tutsi, but also Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.

Neighbours turned on neighbours.  Friends became murderous foes.  Entire families were wiped out.

The carnage was driven by an explicit intent to destroy members of a group simply because of their ethnic identity.

These 100 days reflected the worst of humanity.  But the aftermath revealed the best of the human spirit:  resilience, reconciliation, courage and strength.

The survivors’ stories stand as a testament to the power of hope and forgiveness.

People like Laurence Niyonangira, a survivor of the genocide who lost 37 relatives in 1994.

She chose to forgive one of those responsible for the slaughter of her family after he confessed and served time in prison for his crimes.

“As survivors,” Laurence said, “we can only heal our wounds with the people who created them.”

Her powerful story, and others like it, are part of the exhibits on display for this event reminding us of the imperative of forgiveness, reconciliation and justice.

This year, we focus on the rancid root of all genocides — hatred.

Genocides culminate in mass violence and death.  But they start with the weapon of words.

The genocide in Rwanda was fuelled by decades of hate speech targeting the Tutsi.

Three decades later, the verbal violence of hate speech is still all around us.

Nowadays, divisive and dangerous ideologies are delivered through the global megaphone of social media.

But the vile messages remain all too familiar.

Racism, misogyny, lies, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, stigmatization, discrimination and the outright denial — or even glorification — of past genocides, including the Holocaust and genocide against the Tutsis.

The global community must stand as one against this torrent of hate speech and denounce it wherever it’s found.

We must also stand together in a renewed global push to ratify and fully implement the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, while strengthening prevention mechanisms, educating new generations about past genocides, and countering the mis- and disinformation that fuels hate speech and genocidal intent and action.

I want to convey a special message to the young people from Rwanda joining us today here and online.

We will never forget the horrors of those terrible 100 days.  But we need your help.

We need your voice and your activism to keep alive the memory of those who were killed.  And to call out hatred wherever you hear or see it.

In your cities, towns and neighbourhoods.  In your schools.  Online.  Anywhere and everywhere.

Let’s all push back against hatred and intolerance, wherever we find it.

May the memory of the victims spur our actions, and inspire our commitment to ensure a better, safer world for all people.

The United Nations will always stand with you in this important effort.

For information media. Not an official record.