Shabat Shalom. Salaam. Peace to you all.
It is a great honor to be with you once again.
Thank you, Rabbi Schneier, for your gracious introduction. I hope every day to live up to your high praise
On this day when we remember the victims of the Holocaust, let me pay special tribute to the survivors
who have joined us.
Rabbi Schneier knows fully their pain and suffering, for he too is a survivor.
For most of us, it is hard to imagine the anguish of knowing that you and your loved ones have been
singled out to die because of your faith, your culture or your race.
Yet, this is the stark truth.
In the Second World War, Jews, Roma, and Sinti, homosexuals, communists, the mentally ill—anyone who
did not conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection—were systematically persecuted,
rounded up and transported to death camps.
Some were murdered immediately; others cruelly worked to death.
Such an operation takes an extensive organization. It takes many people—from leaders to ordinary
citizens—to participate, cooperate or simply turn a blind eye.
This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of genocide —and the reason why we must be ever vigilant.
The language of hatred is corrosive and contagious. Its moral corruption can eat into hearts and minds in
even the most progressive or sophisticated societies.
The more often you hear that your neighbor is vile, subhuman, not worthy of the rights that you take for
granted, the greater the chance of such beliefs taking root.
That is why I spoke so frankly and forcefully last year in Tehran about Holocaust denial.
It is why Rabbi Schneier and I and so many others are so committed to the United Nations Alliance of
Neither anti-Semitism nor Islamophobia nor other such forms of bias has a place in the 21st-century world
we are trying to build.
This is also why I worry about the continued stalemate in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
We now have a whole generation of young people on both sides who risk growing up with a demonized,
dehumanized—and utterly false—concept of their neighbors.
They need to be educated to co-exist peacefully with their neighbors.
The only way to build peace is to build bridges and break down walls.
Doing so will take courage, but it must be done.
This year, the United Nations has chosen “the courage to care” as the theme of the International Day of
Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
We are honoring those who risked their lives and their families to save Jews and other victims of
persecution from almost certain death.
Some, like Raoul Wallenberg, are household names.
But most are unsung heroes—brave men and women from all walks of life, and many nations. Teenagers
and parents, parliamentarians and priests, journalists and diplomats—all had the courage to care.
Their example is as relevant today as ever—which is why the United Nations has produced an education
kit for teachers to tell their story.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we
need to take inspiration from these ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human
Ladies and gentlemen,
Last year I visited Srebrenica, the site of the worst act of genocide in Europe since the Holocaust.
I visited the graves and wept with the mothers of the slain.
It is not an easy place for a United Nations Secretary-General to visit.
The United Nations—the international community—failed to protect thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and
boys from slaughter.
The shadow of Srebrenica has joined that of Rwanda, Cambodia, the Holocaust.
Each time we hear “never again”.
But can we truly say we have learned the lessons of these tragedies?
As an international community, do we have the courage to care—and the resolve to act?
In 2005 the United Nations General Assembly—at the level of Heads of State and Governments—adopted
the responsibility to protect.
It is a landmark concept. It puts the obligation firmly on States to protect their populations from genocide,
crimes against humanity, war crimes or ethnic cleansing.
And in the face of these crimes and violations, there is a corresponding duty of the international
community to act.
The responsibility to protect applies everywhere and all the time. It has been implemented with success in
a number of places, including in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire.
But today it faces a great test in Syria.
More than 60,000 people have now died in a conflict whose seeds lie in the peaceful demand of people
for greater freedom.
We have seen a government brutally and mercilessly oppress dissent and fan the flames of a civil war that
threatens to bring instability to a whole region.
I have repeatedly called for unity from the Security Council to decisively address this tragedy.
So too has the General Assembly—by an overwhelming majority.
Each day brings more suffering.
I met some of the refugees last month, in camps in Jordan and Turkey.
I talked to families who had fled with just what they could carry; children whose future has been thrown
They told me that all they wanted was to go home and live in safety and security.
Today’s theme challenges us: do we have the courage to care?
I am deeply concerned about the situation in Syria not simply because of the terrible suffering, but
because of what may come next.
Each day’s delay in resolving the crisis raises the specter of the violence spreading along religious and
Each day’s delay sees new atrocities by both sides. It is essential that all perpetrators of international
crimes understand that they will be held to account.
There will be no amnesties for those most responsible.
The old era of impunity is ending. In its place, slowly but surely, we are building a new age of
But the important thing is to end the violence in Syria—now—and begin the process of transition.
Too much blood has been shed. It is time for reconciliation.
There is a proverb that says: if you want revenge you should dig two graves.
Syria will need many men and women of courage who will reject revenge and embrace peace.
People like Rabbi Schneier.
He too visited Srebrenica last year.
He spoke in solidarity—as only someone who has shared indescribable suffering can.
And this is what he said:
“As a survivor, I neither turned against man or God. Instead, in memory of my family and the many millions
exterminated like them, I devoted my life to help build bridges between all of God’s children in pursuit of
peace and justice.” End of quote.
Such forgiveness takes courage—the courage to see what is right and to do it.
Whatever one’s faith, this is our duty—as individuals, as communities, and as nations.
We have a responsibility to protect.
We must have the courage to care.
Shabat Shalom. Salaam. Peace to you all.
Answers 1Add Yours
The tone of the speech is forceful and empathetic.