Secretary-General António Guterres issued his plea for peace acknowledging that it is “dramatically lacking” in many parts of the world, during an interview with UN News’s Arabic service, ahead of what has now become an annual visit for him, to a Muslim country beset by challenges, during the holy month of Ramadan.
“I think this is the moment for us to be all united for peace. Peace is the most precious thing that we can have in the world”, Mr. Guterres said.
“So, this is the moment to come together and for those that believe in God (in) different ways, with different expressions, to join their voices in a common prayer for peace.”
The UN chief began his tradition of paying a solidarity visit during Ramadan, while he was High Commissioner for Refugees, running the refugee agency UNHCR – a job he held for ten years, before taking up the UN’s top job in 2017.
“The majority of the refugees were Muslim, and the majority of the communities hosting refugees with enormous generosity and solidarity, were Muslim”, he told UN News’s Reem Abaza, noting that the 1951 Refugee Convention on protection of refugees, is fully in line with the spiritual values of the Holy Quran.
Fasting in solidarity
He said his annual visit to refugee camps or settlements as UNHCR chief, where he fasted in solidarity, also provided an opportunity to highlight the generosity being shown by host communities.
“When I became Secretary-General, I thought that this tradition should be maintained – now, not focused on refugee communities, but focused on the Muslim communities that are suffering”, he said.
Next week, he is heading to Somalia, which is still teetering on the brink of full-scale famine, according to UN humanitarians, with nearly half of the population – some 8.25 million – in need of lifesaving assistance or protection.
Around 1.8 million children are severely malnourished, and around eight million people there lack access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.
Increasingly extreme weather has seen both prolonged drought and devasting flooding – a consequence of accelerating climate change, at a moment when extremist militants from Al Shabab continue to wage a deadly terror campaign, Mr. Guterres noted.
Islam’s true face
Asked what insight joining Muslims fasting during Ramadan has given him down the years, the UN chief said it showed to him, “the true face of Islam.”
“The sense of peace, the sense of solidarity, the sense of generosity that I witnessed in the communities hosting refugees, and also the resilience, the courage of the refugees themselves was extremely inspiring. And it remains a very important inspiration of everything I do today, as Secretary-General of the United Nations.”