Focus on education to combat racism, says archbishop


Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations, delivered a speech yesterday at the Geneva conference on racism, emphasizing the need for education to include “ethical and spiritual values” to combat racism and intolerance.

The archbishop affirmed that those who are different are often “rejected to the point that barbarous acts are committed against them, including genocide and ethnic cleansing,” and also recalled that “old forms of exploitation give way to new ones: women and children are trafficked in a contemporary form of slavery, irregular immigrants are abused, persons perceived to be or who in fact are different become, in disproportionate numbers, the victims of social and political exclusion."

One area that receives little attention, but that Archbishop Tomasi said the Vatican is “alarmed by,” is the “still latent temptation of eugenics." He warned that eugenic practices could lead to "the elimination of human beings that do not fulfill the characteristics predetermined by a given society."

To combat these extreme acts of intolerance, said Archbishop Tomasi, education systems must be reviewed “so that every aspect of discrimination may be eliminated from teaching, textbooks, curricula and visual resources."  Media, he went on, "should be accessible and free of racist and ideological control as this leads to discrimination and even violence against persons of different cultural and ethnic background."

He then suggested that the initial step to combating the challenges of “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” is to provide “an integral education that includes ethical and spiritual values.”

This type of education will “favor the empowerment of vulnerable groups like refugees, migrants and people on the move, racial and cultural minorities, people prisoners of extreme poverty or who are ill and disabled, and girls and women still stigmatized as inferior in some societies where an irrational fear of differences prevent full participation in social life," he concluded.

On Tuesday, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke to the conference calling Israel the "most cruel and repressive racist regime,"adding that the U.S. and Europe helped establish Israel at the expense of Palestinians after World War II.

"They resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering," he said, according to the Associated Press.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesperson responded accusing Ahmadinejad of using the U.N. forum “for the adoption of political positions, of an extremist and offensive nature, against any State."

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