Holy See on a Culture of Peace

“Respect for Human Dignity Is the Deepest Foundation in Our Search”

NEW YORK, OCT. 31, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, delivered Tuesday to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, on the topic of a culture of peace.


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Mr President,

This Organization was born out of the ashes of a world war singular for the untold outrages to the dignity of the human person. It was therefore fitting that the very opening lines of the Charter enshrine the immediate link between peace and respect for fundamental human rights.

Achievements in the field of human rights, exemplified by the core International Human Rights Treaties, indicate that the inseparability between peace and respect for the rights and dignity of the person is now accepted as self-evident, universal and inalienable. The recognition of the existence of fundamental human rights necessarily presupposes a universal and transcendent truth about man that is not only prior to all human activity, but also determines it.

At the interpersonal level, human dignity requires to treat all as equal to ourselves. The golden rule of doing unto others what you want others do unto you carries the same principle of fundamental equality that precedes and transcends all characteristics that distinguish us one from the other, be it race, culture or religion.

At the international level, this common dignity also determines the just measure of national interests. They are interrelational and may never be considered absolute. To promote and defend them, not only is it never right to harm the legitimate interests of other States, but there is also an obligation to help promote and defend the common good of all people. Thus, respect for human dignity is the deepest ethical foundation in our search for peace and in the construction of international relations that correspond to the requirements of our common humanity. Forgetting or partially and selectively accepting this core principle is at the origin of conflicts, of environmental degradation and of social and economic injustices.

Human rights are grounded in the objective requirements of nature bestowed on man. In this context, laws contrary to human dignity may never be passed and progress in every field cannot be measured by what is possible, but by its compatibility with human dignity.

Respect for the right to life at every stage, from conception to natural death, firmly establishes the principle that life is not at anyone’s disposal. Our capacity to distinguish between what we can dispose of and what we cannot is most challenged when it comes to protect life in its most vulnerable phases. This is the rule with which to measure respect for human dignity.

It is in this continuum of respect for life that the abolition of the death penalty should be put in context. It is also within this framework that even in the midst of war, all must respect international humanitarian law. When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity must be safeguarded and norms of conduct must be established to limit the damage as much as possible and to alleviate the suffering of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts.

In the same manner that the right to life cannot be disposed of at will, the right to religious freedom cannot be subject to human caprice. In this regard, the difficulties that still many followers of various religions frequently encounter in freely exercising their right to religious freedom is a disturbing symptom of a lack of peace. Not only are they prevented from publicly exercising this right, they are actually persecuted and subjected to violence in some places. A fundamental human right is violated, with serious repercussions for peaceful coexistence, when a State imposes a single religion upon everyone and prohibits all others, or when a secular system denigrates religious beliefs and denies public space to religion.

On their part, religions are called to work for peace and to foster reconciliation among peoples. Faced with a world lacerated by conflict, religions must never become a vehicle of hatred, and never can they justify evil and violence invoking the name of God.

The Charter calls on this Organization to exercise leadership in the promotion of human rights. In doing so, it must not lose sight of the principle that these rights are held to be true, not because a decision-making body says so, but because they flow from the inalienable dignity of every human person.

Thank you, Mr President.

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