Education a "Strategic Tool" to Overcome Racism, U.N. Told

Vatican Official Addresses Human Rights Commission

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GENEVA, MARCH 29, 2004 ( Education is the key to overcome racism, a scourge that continues to poison human relations, the Holy See told the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the U.N. office in Geneva, made that proposal last week when he addressed the U.N. commission. The commission’s session began March 15 and ends April 23.

Archbishop Tomasi referred to education as a «strategic tool,» especially «human rights education, which must go beyond the external expressions of a culture and reach out to the value system and the spiritual belief that sustain the identity of a people.»

«The wound of racism keeps returning to poison human relations,» he said March 22. «The forms taken by contemporary manifestations of racism are evident in spontaneous, officially tolerated, or sometimes institutionalized behavior.»

The Holy See official continued: «In recent events intolerance, based on the idea of group superiority on the basis of the group’s origin or attributed characteristics, provokes new violence and death, ethnic cleansing, refugee flows and untold misery. Racist behavior and self-affirmation become occasionally the cover for undemocratic hold on power and for a rationalized justification for corruption.»

«Dialogue at this level will go a long way to eliminate the walls built by prejudice and historical circumstances,» the archbishop said when pointing out some of the aspects of education in human rights.

«All major religions strive to inculcate this inner rooting of tolerant behavior and at the same time they provide encouragement to teach by example first of all,» he stated.

«Together with education the role of the media is essential in forming a public opinion that is sensitive and respectful of the other,» he added.

Before concluding, Archbishop Tomasi said: «The struggle against racism and all forms of intolerance stands a chance of success when human dignity and equality are recognized as the true foundation of social relations.»

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