Protection of rights, human development, and religious freedom are pillars of peace, Vatican tells U.N.

Protection of rights, human development, and religious freedom are pillars of peace, Vatican tells U.N.

.- A high ranking Vatican official, who worked for years in the foreign ministry of the Holy See, encouraged the U.N. yesterday to work for peace by promoting human development and the fundamental human rights, such as religious freedom. In a speech to the General Assembly, former Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, criticized the “ideology of power,” epitomized by terrorist organizations, which often leads to denial of rights and tremendous human suffering.  

Lajolo, said that while the Holy See, “favors its (United Nations) ongoing reform in the fields of peace-building, development and human rights," the U.N. still has much to do in rooting out divisions in the world based on “culture, faith, wealth and levels of material advancement, and even more by attitudes towards power, authority and cooperation.”  

The archbishop, who now governs the Vatican City State pointed out that human pride, which brought about the divisions, misunderstandings, and hostilities in the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, is the same negative fundamental attitude that threatens world peace today.  “Terrorists, and their various organizations, are the contemporary version of it,” he said, “rejecting the best achievements of our civilization.”

However, Lajolo continued, “in a different nature” superpowers, regional powers, aspiring powers, and oppressed peoples also fall into making the mistake that “only force can bring about a just ordering of affairs among peoples and nations.”

There is an “ideology of power,” Lajolo continued, which scorns any restraint placed upon force and thus leads to greater inequality.  

The archbishop criticized those countries which continue to seek nuclear capabilities, as well as those which have refused to sign treaties against nuclear proliferation and testing.

“Our efforts to overcome divisions and to harmonize differences have been hesitant, at times even half-hearted,” Archbishop Lajolo said. And - noting the world destruction which can be brought about by nuclear weapons - he asked, “how can we stand still?”

It is necessary for the U.N. to recognize certain “pillars of peace” which standup against such “ideologies of power,” he said.  The Vatican representative noted that the support for such pillars begins with the promotion, defense, safeguarding of human rights.  And, he said, the protection of rights must occur from the start, not just after wars arise.

“Too often international bodies act, if at all, only after war is under way or when innocent populations have long been under assault,” he said.

“When the rights of whole groups of people are violated - grievous examples could be mentioned in Europe, Asia and Africa - or when they go unprotected by their own Governments, it is entirely right and just that this Organization intervene in a timely manner by suitable means to restore justice.”

Lajolo also urged the international body to work for the pillar of economic equality, noting that the lack of equality among people often leads to unrest and lays the foundation for violent uprisings.  

“At the root of war,” he said, “there are usually real and serious grievances: injustices suffered; a lack of development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; legitimate aspirations frustrated, and the exploitation of multitudes of desperate people who see no real possibility of improving their lot by peaceful means.”

A solution, the archbishop reminded, is working more fervently to achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals for underdeveloped countries.  

In recent months, talks for increasing world trade have collapsed, leaving many of the development goals unfulfilled. “These failures to correct fundamental inequalities in the world economic system,” Lajolo said, “are fast becoming lost opportunities to advance a moral alternative to war.”  

“Building peace for tomorrow requires doing justice today,” Lajolo concluded.

The archbishop then turned back to the “essential pillar” of human rights, exploring them in more detail. The rights to life, religious freedom, and of thought and expression are three primary rights which the U.N. must enforce in all countries as fundamental to human existence.  

“Every Government must clearly understand: violation of the fundamental rights of the person cannot be removed from the attention of the international community under the pretext of the inviolability of a State’s internal affairs,” he said.

The archbishop noted that, “even among States sitting on the Human Rights Council,” fundamental rights in several nations are not being protected.

The place of religion

The Vatican representative noted that although religion can be exploited for political end in some cases, it is the firm belief of the Holy See that, “at its best, truest and most authentic, religion is a vital force for good, for harmony and for peace among peoples.”

Noting interreligious days of prayer for peace called by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Lajolo pointed out that, “in this last generation, the world’s religions, their leaders and their adherents have shown themselves time and again to be willing to dialogue and to promote harmony among peoples.”

Archbishop Lajolo then turned specifically to the recent words of Pope Benedict, which have been misunderstood by many in the Muslim world and have been used to spark violent protests resulting in threats of “holy war,” the destruction of Christian churches and even the death of a religious sister.  Lajolo began by pointing out that the Pope has “expressed sadness that some passages in his academic address could have lent themselves to misinterpretation.”

The real intention of the Holy Father, the archbishop continued, was to explain that, “’not religion and violence, but religion and reason go together’, in the context of a critical vision of a society which seeks to exclude God from public life.”

“Two days ago, while receiving the Ambassadors of OIC countries accredited to the Holy See, he added: ‘The lessons of the past must… help us to seek paths of reconciliation, in order to live with respect for the identity and freedom of each individual, with a view to fruitful cooperation in the service of all humanity…respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom,’” Lajolo said.

Archbishop Lajolo indicated that it was the wish of the Pope to point out both that religiously motivated violence and the exclusion of religion form the political life must be rejected.  “The Holy Father, in defending the openness of political and cultural activity to the Transcendent, did not wish to do anything other than make a decisive contribution to the dialogue between cultures, by helping to open western thought to the riches of the patrimony of all religions, he said.”

“It falls to all interested parties – to civil society as well as to States - to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty,” this Lajolo concluded, will help bring peace.


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