The Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Maria Stylianou-Lottidou urged people on Saturday to remain united in the fight against racism as much as the fight against coronavirus.
“We are fighting two equally invisible and dangerous enemies,” she said on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that falls annually on March 21, to remember when, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.
“Since then, March 21 reminds us all to remain vigilant against the dangerous threat of racism and to respect all human beings, no matter how different they are from each one of us,” Stylianou-Lottidou said.
“We are all required to deal promptly and effectively with issues arising from racism and we need to protect those people who belong in the most vulnerable groups of the population who are easy targets of racism and violence.
Despite the ongoing development of an institutional framework that protects people from racism and promotes human rights, she said, “we still witness discrimination on a daily basis.”
“Discrimination has multiple facets. It can be based on gender, race, skin colour, religion, nationality, disability and sexual orientation.
“It is therefore still an obligation for our society to deal with racist incidents that affect the population and are still considered ‘acceptable.’”
In order to further confront the situation, the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights said that the institutions in Cyprus should intensify actions aimed at informing and sensitising society while cultivating values of mutual respect and acceptance.
At the same time, she said the government must effectively enforce laws that will swiftly punish any act of racism.
“Today’s anniversary finds mankind frightened, anxious but also up against an invisible enemy that threatens all human beings,” she added.
“Well, racism and coronavirus are the same. They are both contagious and invisible and remain invisible until they suddenly spread and damage each one of us, families, communities and ultimately our society as a whole.
“So,” she concluded, “in these difficult times we need to join forces and fight the treat of racism with more strength than ever.”