Fight Against Racism Begins in the Family

Interview with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on U.N. Conference

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 29, 2001 ( The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace today published the document “The Church and Racism: For a More Fraternal Society” with an eye toward the U.N. Conference Against Racism. The conference begins Friday in Durban, South Africa.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, permanent observer of the Vatican at the United Nations in Geneva, spoke with Vatican Radio about the issues to be discussed at the conference.

Q: What contribution will the Holy See make to the conference?

Archbishop Martin: The first contribution is its support to an event that is not just a conference “against” something, but a conference “in favor” of a new coexistence among peoples and individuals, as a human family.

Q: The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has presented a document that includes a new introduction to a text it published on the issue in 1988. The document emphasizes the fundamental importance of forgiveness for the reconciliation of society. It seems to derive from the central issue, racism.

Archbishop Martin: Forgiveness is something decisive. The way in which we view the past and present offers a new key to face the future. Because of this, this document has been received, as a contribution of the Holy See, in a very, very positive way, because it recalls the conference to the essential questions, to the way in which to construct a new coexistence of the human family for the future.

Q: The document also emphasizes the importance of education against racism. What are the Holy See’s proposals in this respect?

Archbishop Martin: As regards the agents of education, in the preparatory document of the conference, the Holy See introduced references to the family. In fact, deep down the struggle against intolerance begins in the family.

If our families are what they are meant to be, namely, centers of acceptance, then they will begin to create a different society. However, education requires that we also be very attentive to the social level. History teaches us that it is necessary to perceive the first manifestations of “almost” racist phenomena, to avoid their becoming deeply rooted.

Q: The new document published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace refers to John Paul II’s thought on the role of religions. Why has this element been introduced?

Archbishop Martin: I was very impressed by the phrase used by the Pope during the Angelus last Sunday taken from Vatican Council II’s declaration “Nostra Aetate”: “We cannot invoke God the Father of all if we refuse to behave as brothers with some men created in the image of God.”

Moreover, it is necessary to remember that racism is a lie. The very concept of race is artificial. The latest research carried out by genetics states once again that, genetically, we are all the same!

Q: The text goes on to point out the new forms of discrimination, which at times appear surreptitiously as, for example, through the techniques of artificial procreation, etc.

Archbishop Martin: It must always be kept in mind that the eugenic temptation, namely, the temptation to manipulate the differences in people, has not died down in our society, especially today, considering that there are enormous interests linked to genetic research.

It is necessary to pay much attention to the emergence of new forms of racism through genetic progress, which could also be hidden behind the veil of scientific progress. The Church must raise her voice very clearly on this issue.

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