Safeguarding endangered cultural heritage means defending human rights. And the brutal and systematic destruction of cultural patrimony that we are seeing today is an attempt on the part of terrorists to erase history and deprive people of their roots and identity, Archbishop Auza says.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, highlighted on a speech last Wednesday April 17, 2017, in New York, Pope Francis’ words that the protection of cultural riches is an “essential dimension of the defense of the human being” and a “new stage in the process of the implementation of human rights.”
During a side event sponsored by the Holy See dedicated to “Protecting Endangered Cultural Heritage in Times of Conflict,” Archbishop Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that “there is a duty to defend the cultural dimension of persons and civilizations from the desecration now taking place and to promote and protect the human rights of people to their history, identity, environment, places of learning, worship, inspiration and more.”
Recently the world has seen the destruction and desecration of sanctuaries in Mosul, Palmyra, Tikrit, Timbuktu, Bamiyan and so many other places in the Middle East, a region central to the history of civilization and religion. Libraries and archives destroyed; precious manuscripts burned; scientific collections razed; priceless artifacts ransacked; mosques, churches, monasteries, archaeological and cultural sites leveled; and architectural, artistic and historic monuments bulldozed or blown up.
“It is an attack not only on things however precious, but on the people of the past, present and future who value them. It is an assault on the cultural, educational and religious environment they need for their integral development,” Archbishop Auza said.
These words stressed Pope Francis’ remarks on the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2015, when he alluded to “the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries where Christians together with other cultural or ethnic groups and even members of the majority religion … have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property.”