On this day, we honour those who have lost their lives or who have otherwise suffered for simply seeking to exercise their fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief. I reiterate my firm solidarity with these victims.
Despite the concern of the United Nations General Assembly, which instituted this observance in 2019, persons and communities worldwide continue to face intolerance and violence based on religion or belief.
Hate speech, online or offline, continues to fuel violence against vulnerable members of society, including ethnic and religious minorities. We must do more to support victims and examine the conditions that drive intolerance and hate. Initiatives like my Call to Action for Human Rights and the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech are tools that can be used to address these complex and pressing issues.
States have the responsibility to prevent and address discrimination and violence inflicted in the name of religion or belief through comprehensive policies that promote inclusion, diversity, tolerance and interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Human rights violations perpetrated in the name of religion or belief must be investigated and punished, and effective reparations need to be provided to victims, in compliance with international human rights law.
It is essential that all States, faith leaders and other influential actors condemn all incitement to hatred and violence based on religion or belief. Only a collective, inclusive, and society-wide effort can result in safe co-existence for all and end this blight on our societies.