GENEVA, Switzerland, APRIL 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Despite globalization bringing people together, racism persists, and new forms are looming, the Holy See is warning.
One new form that is a “latent temptation” is eugenics, said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observer at the U.N. offices in Geneva.
The archbishop said this today when he spoke at the U.N. Durban Review Conference on racism. The Holy See is participating in the conference, though it has drawn criticism and boycotting amid claims that it is actually promoting racism, and particularly prejudice against Jews.
Archbishop Tomasi, however, affirmed that the “work of this conference has taken a step forward in combating racism, the reason for most countries to stay and join efforts for an outcome that responds to the need of eliminating old and new manifestations of racism.”
Nevertheless he did lament that the conference “has unfortunately been used to utter extreme and offensive political positions that the Holy See deplores and rejects: They do not contribute to dialogue, they provoke unacceptable conflicts, and in no way can be approved or shared.”
Iran’s president opened the conference on Monday with anti-Israel declarations.
Down to business
Focusing on the declared aims of the conference, however, the Holy See representative affirmed that “in all its manifestations, racism makes the false claim that some human beings have less dignity and value than others; it thus infringes upon their fundamental equality as God’s children and it leads to the violation of the human rights of individuals and of entire groups of persons.”
Considering today’s globalized world, Archbishop Tomasi noted that “spatial and temporal proximity does not of itself create the conditions for constructive interaction and peaceful communion.”
“In fact, racism persists,” he affirmed, and went on to list discriminations against a variety of groups, ranging from immigrants, to girls, to “persons perceived to be or who in fact are different.”
“The Holy See is also alarmed by the still latent temptation of eugenics that can be fuelled by techniques of artificial procreation and the use of ‘superfluous embryos,'” the prelate continued. “The possibility of choosing the color of the eyes or other physical characteristics of a child could lead to the creation of a ‘subcategory of human beings’ or the elimination of human beings that do not fulfill the characteristics predetermined by a given society.”
He also warned that “increased security concerns” in a world plagued by terrorism “have created a greater lack of confidence among people of different cultures and have exacerbated the irrational fear of foreigners.”
What to do
Archbishop Tomasi suggested that the “Durban Review Conference can be the occasion to set aside mutual differences and mistrust; reject once more any theory of racial or ethnic superiority; and renew the international community’s commitment to the elimination of all expressions of racism as an ethical requirement of the common good.”
Still, the prelate affirmed, international covenants and changes in law are not the root of the solution.
“Without a change of heart,” he said, “laws are not effective. It is the heart that must continually be purified so that it will no longer be governed by fear or the spirit of domination, but by openness to others, fraternity and solidarity.”
In the fight against discrimination, the archbishop continued, “faith communities play a major part.”
He went on to advocate a “genuine respect of the right to freedom of religion as clearly enshrined in human rights instruments,” so that faith communities can better fight racism.
Archbishop Tomasi concluded that four steps are needed to combat racism and related intolerance.
First, he called for an “integral education that includes ethical and spiritual values” that “favour the empowerment” of vulnerable groups. Next, the Holy See representative pointed to the need for a “new examination aimed at making the various approaches more incisive and efficient.”
The universal ratification of major instruments against racism and discrimination is a third step, he suggested. And finally, the prelate affirmed, “there is no substitute for fair national legislation that explicitly condemns all forms of racism and discrimination and enables all citizens to participate publicly in the life of their country on the basis of equality in both duties and rights.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of archbishop’s address: www.zenit.org/article-25686?l=english