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Archbishop Auza - Holy See Mission Photo

Archbishop Auza: ‘Culture of Encounter’ the Key to Peace

Address to UN Security Council Debate

The key to mediation and the settlement of disputes is a “culture of encounter”, according to Archbishop Bernardito AuzaApostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.

He made his assertion on August 29, 2018, during the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Mediation and Settlement of Disputes, in New York.

“Pope Francis frames the idea of mediation in the ‘culture of encounter,’ which privileges mutual respect and understanding at the heart of not only settling disputes but also as normative in our daily dealings with others, thereby putting the incessant work for peace and reconciliation at the heart of our daily life,” Archbishop Auza said. “The culture of encounter places at the center of all political, social and economic activity the human person, who enjoys the highest dignity, and respect for the common good.”

The Archbishop’s Full Statement Follows

Madam President,

At the beginning of December 1978, the leaders of Argentina and Chile concluded that all possibilities were exhausted of reaching an agreement that would put an end to their age-old dispute concerning the determination of their southern borders. Pope John Paul II pleaded with them not to close the door, insisting on a calm and responsible examination of the problem in order to build a secure and stable foundation for a fraternal coexistence between their two Nations. Forty years after the peaceful settlement of their dispute, Argentina and Chile remain deeply grateful that their mutual decision to request the mediation of the Holy See spared their peoples from the scourge of war.

Argentina and Chile, as well as Mozambique and most recently Colombia, have set an example of how it is always necessary to leave open avenues of mediation to settle disputes and never to abandon the process of patient dialogue and negotiation, in order to reach a just and worthy solution by peaceful means proper to civilized peoples.

In contrast, there have been and there are blatant cases in which parties in dispute have fatally resorted to arms without giving mediation the time to mature toward a peaceful settlement. Indeed, as Pope Francis affirmed during his 2017 visit to Colombia, “seeking peace is an open-ended endeavor… The more demanding the path that leads to peace and understanding, the greater must be our efforts to acknowledge each another, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and support one another.”[1]

Pope Francis frames the idea of mediation in the “culture of encounter,” which privileges mutual respect and understanding at the heart of not only settling disputes but also as normative in our daily dealings with others, thereby putting the incessant work for peace and reconciliation at the heart of our daily life. The “culture of encounter” places at the center of all political, social and economic activity the human person, who enjoys the highest dignity, and respect for the common good.

In fact, key mediators in the peace process in Colombia that ended more than fifty years of bloody conflict insisted that the focus of mediation and conflict resolution must be founded on the respect and defense of human dignity and the common good. It is impossible to find a just way out of situations that generate violence without this principle of recognition and without the restoration of the dignity of those who suffered during conflicts.

A key issue in the international community’s efforts on mediation in the settlement of disputes is fair, impartial mediation. Thus, while we lament the failure of parties to resort to mediation, we must also ask whether we have impartial, unselfish and persevering mediators that parties in dispute can mutually trust.

Trustworthiness is the mediator’s greatest asset, the open secret in his or her capacity to build mutual trust between parties in disputes. A trustworthy mediator engenders trust by being able to identify objectively the interests of the parties, and in spite of and beyond those particular interests, is able to lead the parties to see their specific interests within the dynamic of working together for the common purpose of achieving a good mutually beneficial to all the parties involved.

Another fundamental lesson learned in the experiences of the Catholic Church in its mediation efforts is that authentic mediation requires the participation of all the parties involved, not only those who exercise leadership but also of the entire community, in particular, those who have suffered from the conflict. In this sense, mediation involves listening and being close to the victims of injustices and violence generated by the conflict.

Participation in the peace process takes place on various levels, from the negotiating table to grassroots initiatives. What is important is that each level creates mechanisms that ensure that everyone works around the shared goal of building peace. The sustainability of the process will be effective to the extent that there is broad participation. Fostering inclusive social relationships during the peace process is key also to a successful implementation of any peaceful settlement of disputes. Conflicts leave very deep wounds, and an inclusive, participatory process of mediation and resolution of disputes is essential to the process of healing and reconciliation that continue long after the ink is dry.

A good mediator, while working to settle disputes, builds a future of peace. Mediators are artisans and instruments of peace. We thank those who have done such a precious service to humanity.

Thank you, Madam President.

  1. Pope Francis, Meeting with Authorities, the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of Civil Society, Bogota
    (Colombia), 7 September 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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