UN Secretary-General António Guterres has extended his condolences and expressed solidarity with the French government following an attack that left three people dead in Nice on Thursday morning.
According to news reports, two women and a man died at the hands of a lone attacker who stormed a church at around 9 a.m., in what French President Emmanuel Macron has described as an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
An inquiry into these gruesome murders has been launched.
The attack occurred just days after the murder of teacher Samuel Paty, who was brutally assaulted in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine after showing inflammatory caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his class as part of a lesson on freedom of speech.
Following this first attack, Macron reaffirmed France’s unwavering commitment to defending freedom of speech and expressed support for satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — which later re-published cartoons that are considered blasphemous and offensive by some, UN News reported.
We will not give in, ever.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 25, 2020
We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.
Earlier this month, the government announced its plan to tackle “Islamist separatism” in a bill that French anti-racist associations say could fuel Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in France.
Macron’s response, along with the re-publication of the controversial cartoons, has stoked anger across the Muslim world, igniting mass protests and boycotts against French brands and products in countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Morocco.
Miguel Angel Moratinos, the High-Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, had then voiced “deep concern” over these growing divisions, urging all communities to showcase “mutual respect” and foster a “culture of fraternity and peace.”
“The inflammatory caricatures have provoked acts of violence against innocent civilians who were attacked for their sheer religion, belief, or ethnicity,” Moratinos said in a statement released on Wednesday. “Insulting religions and sacred religious symbols provokes hatred and violent extremism leading to polarization and fragmentation of the society.”
“Freedom of expression should be exercised in a way that fully respects the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions,” he added.
Moratinos, who’s responsible for the implementation of a UN guide to help tackle hate speech, racism, and discrimination, later condemned the killings in Nice, emphasizing that attacks on civilians committed on the basis of religion or belief are always “intolerable and unjustifiable.”
He added that “outrageous crimes should not dissuade us from working together to promote mutual respect and peace globally, as one humanity.”
This is the second time in five years that Nice has become the target of a terrorist attack.
In 2016, an 84-year old priest was also killed in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in eerily similar circumstances that are still fresh in the mind of many people across the country.