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Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace

Holy See Addresses UN on Role of Reconciliation

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On November 19, the Holy See gave an intervention before the Security Council Open Debate on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace: The Role of Reconciliation in maintaining.» The statement was delivered by Msgr. David Charters.

In its statement, the Holy See spoke about how throughout its history the Catholic Church has sought to be a sign and agent of peace and to build unity between peoples. It highlighted the powerful example of reconciliation in the Central African Republic. To ensure lasting peace it is imperative to work at the grass-roots level and it is here that church communities and religious leaders have an indispensable role in forming cultures of peace. It underlined the hope that the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February will be a powerful stimulus for interreligious dialogue and an important example of how religious leaders can bring people together, especially where conflicts rage.

The full statement follows:

Madam President,

The Holy See wishes to thank the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for convening this Open Debate on the Role of Reconciliation in maintaining International Peace and Security.

The theme is at once crucial for the peace and stability of present and future generations and is at the same time central to the mission of the Catholic Church which, throughout her history, has sought continually to be a sign and instrument of unity among peoples.

Madam President,

A powerful example of reconciliation came about after violence had erupted in the Central African Republic and various stakeholders sought to amplify or indeed manipulate the religious nature of the conflict so as to further compound artificial divisions among the population. Three men stood up and said no: the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, an evangelical pastor from the city and an imam. They courageously set up an interreligious platform at the national level, the experience of which was repeated at the level of local communities across the country. In spite of the inevitable problems and difficulties encountered along the way, the initial and inspired vision of these three religious leaders remains. Furthermore, the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to that divided and impoverished land in November 2015 would point to such efforts as the only way forward. It was and remains inconceivable for people of faith and members of major religions to make an “unjust use of weapons”[1] in order for one group to dominate others. Religious leaders must stand together and show to those in their pastoral care that diversity, whether this be ethnic or religious, need not be an obstacle to a nation’s unity and that divisions can be overcome when we commit to fraternity. The Pope’s invitation to the Imam of the central Mosque, in Bangui’s third arrondissement, to ride with him and greet the people together from the “popemobile” was a powerful sign and had an incredibly positive impact, as it challenged people on both sides of the conflict to think again, to put aside prejudice and instead to reach out and go toward the other with renewed confidence.

Madam President,

Reconciliation, of course, involves differences; it acknowledges divisions and seeks to overcome difficulties that all too often lead to people being killed, suffering violence and other violations against their human dignity. It requires magnanimity to see the bigger picture, seek the common good and invest in a more just, humane and prosperous future. However, genuine reconciliation in no way minimizes the suffering, rather it must deal with this; it examines that which led to dispute and conflict in the first place and uses appropriate means to find a way to a lasting and durable peace, which of course is not possible without justice.

Promoting reconciliation is not simply wiping the slate clean and can never be seen as an excuse for impunity; the guilty must be held accountable and those whose lives have been so sorely affected should receive some form of reparation. In this regard, societies that have been fractured should make use of mechanisms such as transitional justice so as to set the foundations on which the rule of law might be reestablished and universal human rights be enjoyed by all. A key element in ensuring that peace may truly flourish is to guarantee that initiatives are also implemented at and rise up from grass-roots and community levels: it is here that church communities and religious leaders have an indispensable role to play, one that can never allow for ambivalence or political manipulation. In this regard, it is also important to engage all relevant actors including members of civil society formed in and forming, in their turn, cultures of peace.

Madam President,

When Pope Francis knelt to kiss the feet of South Sudanese leaders during a retreat held at the Vatican last April, this compelling gesture translated what he has continually urged, namely that “all those involved in the national political process seek that which unites and to overcome what divides, in a spirit of true fraternity”.[2] The same could be applied to so many of the places where tension reigns such that key players and those in authority might commit themselves sincerely “to an inclusive dialogue in the search for consensus for the good [of all].» [3]

The Holy See believes that the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and living together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Abu Dhabi last February, meant as a stimulus for interreligious dialogue, is an example of the important role that religious leaders can play in bringing people together and at the same time is a further call, especially where conflict continues to rage, for parties to come together in the spirit of dialogue and concord since “nothing is lost with peace and everything may be lost with war”.

I thank you Madam President.

1. Pope Francis, Homily in the Cathedral of Bangui, 29 November 2015.

2. Pope Francis, words after Sunday Angelus, 10 November 2019.

3. Ibid.

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

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