Women, Peace and Security:
Sexual Violence in Conflict
On April 23, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, gave an intervention during the Security Council Open Debate on “Women, peace and security: Sexual Violence in Conflict.”
In his statement, Archbishop Auza condemned sexual violence as a weapon of war and said that silence and impunity with regard to these crimes must end and give way to accountability, justice and reparation. He urged that women and girls, especially those who have survived conflict-related sexual violence, be given a large role in accountability and peace mechanisms. Such violence occurs not only by terrorist organizations and criminal gangs but members of armed formed and even UN peacekeepers, he said, praising recent initiatives to prevent and combat sexual abuse in UN Peacekeeping operations. He called special attention to the question of children conceived and born as a result of sexual violence in conflict and said that their human rights must be respected and guaranteed and that they should be welcomed, cherished, and given the means to flourish, rather than stigmatized or denied the right to life.
The statement can be found here.
International Day for Multilateralism
and Diplomacy for Peace
On April 25, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, gave an intervention during the High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate and promote the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace being held at UN Headquarters in New York.
In his statement, Archbishop Auza said that the indispensable conditions for successful multilateral diplomacy are good will, mutual trust and respect, honesty, fairness, a spirit of cooperation, and openness toward common solutions. He mentioned Pope Francis’ address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See three months ago, in which the Pope highlighted four points: the primacy of law and justice; the defense of those in the most vulnerable situations; building bridges and building peace; and a focus on our common destiny the appropriate means to achieve it. He said that a renewed multilateralism must be founded on the idea of the international community as a “family of nations” seeking the common good, something that requires solidarity on the part of governments, international organizations and all men and women.
The statement can be found here.
Responding to the Cries of the Amazon
On April 26, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN hosted an event entitled “Toward an Integral Ecology: Responding to the Urgent Cries and Horizons of the Amazon,” during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.” It was co-sponsored by the Red Ecclesial Pan Amazónica (REPAM), the NGO Mining Working Group, Conselho Indigenista Missionário of Brazil, and the Justice Coalition of Religious. It took place in preparation for the upcoming Synod on the Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology, which will take place at the Vatican October 6-27, 2019 as a forum for Church leaders and experts to explore best practices and solutions to challenges in the region.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in remarks delivered by First Counselor Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, that during his 2018 visit to the Amazon, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity for indigenous peoples, who are great caretakers of the environment, yet face discrimination for following their ancient traditions and customs. Pope Francis called for an end to the exploitation of the Amazon, criticizing those who view the region as an inexhaustible source of resources without regard for the rights of indigenous peoples.
"The Church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh, especially through the training of Church workers, native teachers and clergy suited to local conditions and committed to consolidating, as it were, the Church’s 'Amazonian face,’ he said, repeating the words of Pope Francis.
Archbishop Roque Paloschi of the Archdiocese of Porto Velho, Brazil noted that Pope Francis’ 2018 visit to Puerto Maldonado, Peru, was extremely important to show the Church’s support for indigenous peoples. He expressed his hope that the Synod will show that the Amazon is not something to be conquered, but rather protected and that the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants need to be supported. Hearing the views of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon is crucial for the preparatory process of the Synod, he added.
“We are listening to the cries of the Amazon,” he said. “We are so grateful of the indigenous people,” Archbishop Paloschi said. “They are the spokespeople.”
Sister Digna Erazo Cardenas, a Pastoral Agent of the Aguarico in Ecuador, said that regardless of protection under national or international law, Amazonian peoples are being taken advantage of and are enduring many hardships, such as a lack of clean water due to oil spills and industrial waste, increased violence, prostitution, high death rates, and general poverty, along with the undermining of their ancient traditions.
“To strip them away from their traditions is like taking away their heart,” Sister Erazo said, noting many of their traditions include safeguarding their land from exploitation.
The Amazon holds the most biodiversity on the planet, which makes it an important region for sustaining the planet, but also prone to exploitation due to its rich resources, she noted.
“The Amazon is an integral organism in south America that benefits all the inhabitants of the planet, which is why it’s a special region of global importance,” she said, stressing that the countries and companies of the Global North often reap the benefits of exploiting the lands, and indigenous peoples from the Global South suffer the consequences. She called for greater conservation and sustainable management of the biodiversity and cultural values of indigenous peoples.
Chief Jair Seixas Reis of the Maraguá Community in Brazil expressed his concern about the lack of demarcation of indigenous lands and called on the international community to advocate for the care of indigenous territories.
“The world needs to speak out because Amazonia is the lung of our world. If our lung doesn’t work, our earth will die,” Chief Reis said. He has received death threats for standing up for his native land, but said that his greater concern is for his people. “It is very important to give peace and security to the indigenous people.”
Fr. Justino Rezende, a member of the Pre-Synodal Council of the Synod of the Amazon and a Salesian since 1984, is the only indigenous priest participating in the pre-Synodal meetings. He said that the people of the Amazon are highly aware of the importance of the rainforest, but the whole world must follow suit and understand the great loss to the world would face without the Amazon and its indigenous peoples.
“Often when we defend our land and culture, we are blamed for preventing progress, but we cannot have progress equal to destruction,” he said. “Progress needs to be defending humanity, not destroying it.”
Fr. Rezende noted that early on in the planning process, when some collaborators advocated holding the Synod in a South American country, the Holy Father insisted the meeting take place at the Vatican to spread awareness of its importance throughout the western world and northern hemisphere.
Fr. Rezende called on everyone to make a “commitment in favor of life and to rethink the way we address indigenous issues leaving a mentality of colonization behind and progressing to one of understanding indigenous language and appreciating their culture.”
Auza speaks at Sri Lankan Mission
condemning the terrorist attacks against
Christians on Easter Sunday
Photos courtesy of Gregory A. Shemitz, Catholic News Service
COMMEMORATION OF THE TERRORIST ATTACKS
IN SRI LANKA ON EASTER SUNDAY, 21 APRIL 2019
Remarks by Archbishop Bernardito Auza
On Easter Sunday, the biggest and most joyful annual festivity for Christians celebrating of the triumph of life over death, there was instead death and destruction in Sri Lanka. Immediately informed of those horrible attacks on three Churches and three luxury hotels, Pope Francis, at the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and before hundreds of millions of television and social media viewers throughout the world, expressed condolences and closeness to the victims and to the entire Sri Lankan Nation.
“I wish,” he said, “to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence. I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.”
We are dealing here with something we constantly denounce in United Nations debates: the heinous crime of terrorism as a concrete manifestation of extremist fundamentalism and radicalism.
Numbers are more than enough to confer on this massacre a primacy of shame on the perpetrators. Besides the aim to offend beyond the physical crime by perpetrating the attacks on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, 359 so far have died, of which 45 were children, including an eighteen month-old baby. The attacks could truly be defined as a “Massacre of the Innocents” that reminds us of the biblical lamentations of the mothers of the innocent victims: “"A voice is heard…, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Mt. 2:18 – quoting Jer. 31.15).
The day after the attacks, Pope Francis repeated his expressions of sympathies to the Sri Lankan Nation, saying: “I would like to express my spiritual and paternal closeness to the people of Sri Lanka… I pray for the very numerous victims and wounded and ask everybody not to hesitate to offer any needed help to this beloved Country. Furthermore, I hope that all condemn these terroristic, inhuman actions that cannot be justified.”
At this Special Memorial, I make my own these words of closeness of Pope Francis and address them to His Excellency, Dr. Rohan Perera, Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, to all the personnel of the Mission, and to all Sri Lankans here present.
God bless Sri Lanka!