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Archbishop Auza Addresses United Nations on Rights Issues

‘Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.’

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On October 30, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave an intervention before the Third Committee of the Seventy-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Agenda Item 68 (a, b), dedicated to the “Elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” The intervention was delivered by Monsignor Fredrik Hansen.

Archbishop Auza, drawing on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, condemned racism and racial discrimination and challenged the mindset that abets intolerance and racist behavior. He expressed concern over two growing phenomena: the rise in discriminatory, racist and xenophobic attitudes toward migrants and refugees; and the increase in acts of intolerance and discrimination against communities and individuals solely because of their religions and beliefs, mentioning, in particular, the acts of violence against of Christians and others. He called for a spirit of solidarity, intercultural and interreligious dialogue to overcome indifference and counter fears.

The complete statement follows:

Mr. Chair,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”[1] History has sadly proven that this fundamental truth is constantly challenged and that racist and xenophobic attitudes and related intolerance persist.[2]

The Holy See has never been and will never be indifferent to the seriousness and gravity of these phenomena and strongly condemns every form of racism and racial discrimination. Earlier this year, Pope Francis called attention to a heightened “fear of ‘the other,” saying that the problem is not so much that “we have doubts and fears. The problem is when they condition our way of thinking and acting to the point of making us intolerant, closed and perhaps even — without realizing it — racist. In this way, fear deprives us of the desire and the ability to encounter the other, the person different from myself.”[3]

As a State Party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Holy See endeavors to assume fully its responsibility in accord with its nature and mission. The Holy See also actively participated in the Durban Conference of 2001 and offered its moral support to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), recognizing that combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance is a necessary and indispensable prerequisite for justice and peace in the world.

Mr. Chair.

My Delegation would like to express its concern over two growing phenomena.

The first is the rise in discriminatory, racist and xenophobic attitudes against migrants and refugees. In his message on the occasion of the Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Human Migration and Development, Pope Francis stated that migrants “continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”[4] Increased vigilance is needed in the face of these new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which only cause more suffering and anguish among those men, women, and children who have been forced to flee their places of origin.

The second is the worrying increase in acts of intolerance and discrimination against communities and individuals solely because of their religion or beliefs. The disturbing reality of religious persecution is of grave concern for the Holy See, not only with regard to Christians that suffer but also for members of other religions who face discrimination and intolerance – often violent and deadly. In this regard, it is important to recall, in accordance with the indivisibility, interdependence, and interrelation of universal human rights, that the commitments on tolerance and non-discrimination must not be separated from longstanding obligations and commitments to freedom of religion and belief. The fulfillment of the first requires that the latter should also be fully implemented: a superficial tolerance, in fact, cannot be an alibi for denying or not guaranteeing religious freedom.

Mr. Chair,

What is needed is a change of attitude to overcome indifference and to counter fears. The Catholic Church works – often with loss of lives – to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue and a spirit of solidarity and fraternity to counter indifference and fear. One of the crucial arenas for doing so is the home. “We are all called, in our respective roles,” Pope Francis recently stated, “to nurture and promote respect for the inherent dignity of every human person beginning with the family — the place in which we learn from a very tender age the values of sharing, welcoming, brotherhood and solidarity — but also in the various social contexts we engage in.”[5]

Thank you, Mr. Chair.


1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 1.

2. A/73/371.

3. Pope Francis, Message for the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2019.

4. Pope Francis, Message on the occasion of Mexico-Holy See Colloquium on Human Migration and Development, Mexico City, 14 July 2014.

5. Pope Francis, Address to Participants at the World Conference on “Xenophobia, Racism and Populist Nationalism in the Context of Global Migration”, 20 September 2018.


Copyright © 2019 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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