Holy See Calls for Probe of Causes of Genocide

International Efforts Have Fallen Short, Says Papal Representative

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden, JAN. 28, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See called on the international community to examine why its efforts to prevent new genocides in recent times have failed.

The appeal was made by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, when, as head of the Vatican delegation, he delivered an address Tuesday to the 4th Stockholm International Forum on “Preventing Genocide: Threats and Responsibilities.”

Archbishop Migliore defined genocide as the “specific intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a nation, a race, an ethnic or religious group, a defenseless or vulnerable group of human beings, simply for being such. Indeed, genocide literally means to kill a race or a tribe.”

Inaugurating the forum, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the international community witnessed in the 1990s the “shameful” genocide in Rwanda and in former Yugoslavia.

Archbishop Migliore noted that, although the international community has adopted juridical instruments, these “have not prevented new genocides from happening.”

“Something must have gone wrong, and the international community is duty-bound to examine why they failed,” the archbishop said.

It is important, he added, “to determine whether the failure was due to instruments and structures which have become wanting in the face of evolving criminal strategies, or to a lack of political will to implement them, or to interests overriding the survival of a nation or a group, or to all these factors combined.”

“This task is all the more compelling if we consider that, since genocide’s intent to destroy a nation or a group implies coordinated planning and long-term strategy, signs of an impending threat could hardly escape notice of an attentive international community,” Archbishop Migliore added.

“The United Nations and other international organizations have the task to muster international resolve to implement, whenever and wherever is necessary, the juridical instruments and structures,” he said. “They are the privileged fora in the search for refocusing these instruments and structures and, if need be, in creating new ones, to make them more responsive to threats of genocide or other grave violations of human rights.”

Archbishop Migliore underlined the “duty to educate individuals and communities, not only on the horrors of genocide, not only to oppose it, but above all, to prevent it from occurring again.”

“Genocide remains, unfortunately, a constant menace in some regions of the world, where its causes and telltale signs may not be so hard to identify,” the Holy See representative said.

“Genocide is latent in places where eliminating the other is considered a fast solution to drawn-out rivalries and unresolved conflicts; where blatantly unjust relations between groups are ideologically justified; where under the surface of apparent order are embers of hatred still burning for lack of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation; where acceptance of past mistakes and a ‘purification of memory’ are obstructed by the fear to confront the historical reality,” he added.

“These are not only identifiable warnings of an impending threat of genocide,” the prelate said. “If I may add, these are also identifiable factors in the breeding grounds of terrorism.”

In the forum, Israeli professor Yehuda Bauer, academic adviser of the conference and of the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, said that genocide was the cause of 169 million deaths between 1900 and 1987.

A risk of genocide currently exists in Burma, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, Bauer said.

Representatives of more than 60 governments and international organizations participated in the forum, invited by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson. The three-day forum ended today.

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