Here is the statement given Tuesday by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security.
The Holy See is pleased that the Russian Federation Presidency has submitted this topic for Open Debate in this Council and brought it to the attention of the International Community.
The Holy See has long advocated for an increased involvement of women in making, maintaining and building peace. Thus it appreciates the initiatives promoted by the Security Council and Governments to raise awareness and arrive at a fuller recognition of the vital role of women in preventing the outbreak of war through mediation and preventive diplomacy, in reconciling, rehabilitating and rebuilding societies in post-war situations, and in avoiding relapses into armed conflicts. Women can and should play much greater roles in all of these processes. Their special capacities to bring order out of chaos, community out of division, and peace out of conflict and their special gifts in educating people to be more receptive and sensitive to the needs of others is essential in order to spare our world from further scourges of war and help heal the wounds of previous and present violent conflicts.
To harness the special capacities of women in peace and security, however, an international effort should be made to enable them to succeed, something that will be difficult to achieve if women still represent a disproportionate number of the world’s disadvantaged. The lack of access for women and girls to education, in particular, quality education, must be addressed. Sad to say, as Pope Francis pointed out in his 25 September 2015 Address to the General Assembly, not everywhere are girls and women given full access to education; most of the time, this results in condemning them to a second-class role within society and in giving them no possibility of being heard. Education is the great enabler for women to be able to contribute fully to the promotion and consolidation of peace and harmony not only in the family, but also in local communities, and the entire world.
The Catholic Church has long placed great emphasis on the absolute necessity of giving young women and girls access to education. Today, young women and girls constitute the majority in many of the more than 100,000 schools of the Catholic Church worldwide, from kindergarten through university, in particular, in regions where women and girls still suffer discrimination. They learn the skills to become well-trained educators and professionals, that may greatly contribute to a secure and safe society. The priority of ensuring a quality education for girls and women is also essential if we hope that they will transmit to boys and men the necessary values to desist from violence and conflict, for the role and influence of the mother are vital in the education of children and youth in the values of peace and mutual respect, of reconciliation and healing. The peacemaking role of the mother in the family is of the essence not merely fora peaceful and secure home but also for a peaceful, inclusive and safe society.
Setting up women to succeed in using their talents for making, maintaining and building peace also requires combatting poverty and ensure access to other fundamental resources. In both urban and rural areas, it is far more common for women to lack access to basic services, including health-care and social protections. In vast areas of the world, the lack of consistent and nutritious food, clean water and sanitation services, as well as the lack of employment opportunities and decent pay, continue to undermine women’s abilities to play their role in the life of their own families and society as a whole.
Helping women to bring healing to the world by addressing the causes and consequences of war and violence also means protecting them in this vital mission. The close to fifty conflicts raging in different parts of the world today call on us to concentrate our efforts on the plight of women and girls in violent situations. Women who have fallen victims to violence must be helped to overcome the stigma and the shame to which they are subjected to in certain societies, and to seek justice. It is so much more difficult for women to sustain the family and care for family members maimed by violence if their own wounds are not being treated and the injustices they have suffered not being remedied. With so much money available for weapons, can’t the world spare resources to compensate for the loss of life and limb, of the families and homes of these innocent victims, to help them overcome the ravages of conflict and enable them to become peacemakers?
That women suffer disproportionately from conflicts and wars that they did not cause creates the false impression that women are only victims and not also peacemakers. It is high time – indeed, high time is long past – that this flawed image be laid to rest. And one sure way of achieving that is to harness to the full the active role of women in all phases of conflict prevention, mediation, conflict resolution and post-conflict peacebuilding. Without the inputs and specific skills of women, the most comprehensive understanding possible of the causes of conflicts and the most effective solutions to end them and build peace may never be fully attained.
Thank you, Mr. President.