By Holy See Mission
Statement of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations on the occasion of the Security Council’s debate on “The challenges of the fight against terrorism in Africa in the context of maintaining international peace and security” New York, May 13 – The Holy See congratulates the leadership of the Government of Togo for organizing under its presidency of the Security Council this month the initiative of placing on its agenda the important issue of combating terrorism in Africa in the context of maintaining international peace and security. The senseless attack on Saint Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Arusha, Tanzania, demonstrates the importance and timeliness of this discussion. Confronting the scourge of terrorism with a response of solidarity among nations requires from the international community greater commitment and action to safeguard life and uphold all fundamental human rights. Terrorism, by its very nature, manifests utter contempt for human life and dignity, since it uses the destruction and killing of innocent people as a means to an end. Attacking individuals and communities, terrorism instrumentalizes human life and also seeks to prevent the exercise of other fundamental human rights. The unacceptable proliferation of terrorism – in all regions of the world and particularly in Africa – requires condemnation in the most absolute terms, since acts of terrorism strike at the very heart of human dignity and constitute an offence against all humanity. The Holy See accordingly condemns the use of terrorism in all its forms and rejects, in particular, the manipulation of religion in an attempt to justify attacks against innocent human life. When terrorism is perpetrated in the name of religion, religious believers and leaders must emphatically reiterate that violence in the name of religion is the very “antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction.” Religious leaders and communities must play an important role in combating the false ideologies of terrorists and in nurturing cultural, social and religious understanding and respect among people and communities. In responding to terrorism and protecting against terrorist attacks, sight should not be lost of the victims of terrorism: such people and their communities should receive the support necessary to guide them in their grieving and rehabilitation. Communities in all regions of the world today live in fear for their lives, families grieve the loss of those taken from them through senseless killings inflicted by acts of terrorism, while victims struggle to rehabilitate their shattered lives. The defence against terrorism requires both local and international responses, in full respect for human rights and the principle of the rule of law. At the local level, this requires that State, local and international actors do not resort to further use of violence in an unending and destructive cycle of killings, but seek rather to identify those responsible, establish their criminal accountability, and prosecute them in accordance with fundamental human rights, due process and the principles of justice. At the international level, the community of nations has a responsibility to work together to address the ongoing use of terrorism to destroy lives, while at the same time fostering conditions that will prevent terrorist groups from developing. Greater police and judicial cooperation provides, in particular, an opportunity for building bridges among peoples from different countries and ethnic and religious backgrounds. Responding to terrorism, however, also requires a just and courageous analysis of the motivations and circumstances which foster terrorism. This response also requires political, social and religious leaders to condemn all acts of terrorism as an affront to human dignity, and not remain silent when these occur in Africa. The disinterest of media outlets when terror attacks occur in Africa versus other regions of the world strikes the Holy See as undermining the principle of universal human dignity and equality. In Africa, the response to terrorism also requires greater international cooperation to improve the capacities for States to respond to and protect against acts of terrorism. In areas lacking the rule of law and respect for human rights, where people feel as though society has left them behind, terrorist organizations are able to fuel a sense of disillusionment and feed upon these injustices in an attempt to justify their actions. The international community must work together, therefore, to ensure that greater efforts are undertaken to provide the financial, educational and technological resources necessary to addressing the underlying circumstances which foster terrorism. Cooperation against terrorism in Africa must also promote cooperation among stake holders such as families, religious organizations, tribal and community leaders and other civil society actors. These organizations of communities provide a bottom-up approach to combating terrorism and present the opportunity to confront terrorism while at the same time promoting greater understanding and cooperation among local communities. As Pope Francis stated in response to recent terrorist attacks: “be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.” The Holy See remains committed to confronting terrorism and building societies respectful of life through condemning acts of terrorism, promoting interreligious dialogue and social, cultural and economic development. In accordance with this commitment, last year the Holy See ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, and entered into bi-lateral agreements to promote greater cooperation and sharing of information to combat the financing of terrorism.  Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI at the Meeting for Peace in Assisi, 27 October 2011.
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