New World Community at Stake, Vatican Warns

At World Conference Against Racism

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DURBAN, South Africa, SEPT. 4, 2001 ( The “ethical foundations of a new world community” are the real challenge faced by the World Conference Against Racism, the head of the attending Vatican delegation says.

“The fight against racial discrimination is, above all, about how we wish to structure the interaction of individuals and peoples at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in his address to the conference Monday.

His comments came on the day the United States and Israel withdrew their delegates from the conference, denouncing the harsh, anti-Israel language that appeared in the conference´s documents.

Archbishop Martin was categorical in his speech. “Racism is a sin,” he said. “It is fundamentally a lie, a concept deliberately invented to create division in humanity. This conference must be about the truth: the truth concerning human dignity, the truth concerning the fundamental unity of the human family.”

He stressed that, without “an individual and collective conversion of heart and attitude, the roots of hatred, intolerance and exclusion will not be eliminated, and racism will continue to raise its ugly head again and again in the next century, as it has in the century that has just ended.”

The archbishop focused on the same points that the Holy See did during the preparatory meetings for the conference: openness to, and acceptance of, immigrants, refugees and their families; the importance of education and respect for others through appreciation of the family, the first place where a person learns mutual respect; and dialogue between religions.

The latter has an irreplaceable role when it comes to reminding believers that all have one same Father, he said.

The media also have a decisive responsibility, especially when it comes to avoiding “any provocation of sentiments of racism,” the Vatican aide stressed.

Archbishop Martin concluded by expressing the hope that, despite the problems and difficulties, the Durban conference “will mark an historic moment, from which a culture of dialogue may assume a new relevance.”

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