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Role of Religious Leaders Regarding the Responsibility to Protect

On September 25, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States and Head of Delegation to the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, gave an address during a Ministerial Side Event dedicated to “The Responsibility of Religious Leaders Regarding the Responsibility to Protect,” which was sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.

In his remarks, Archbishop Gallagher said that the Responsibility to Protect is one of the primary objectives of the State and Criminal Law. The State has the primary responsibility to protect public order, social harmony and the life and security of persons and their property; the performance of that duty is the basis for its legitimacy. After World War II, he said, these principles became the basic principles of the international order. In 2005, the 60th Session of the UN enunciated the three pillars of the international concept of the Responsibility to Protect: the duty of States to protect their populations from atrocity crimes; the duty of the international community to help States do so; and the duty of the international community to respond when States fail to do so. Religious leaders can greatly facilitate the understanding and application of the principle of the Responsibility to Protect, because the Responsibility to Protect is deducible from the fundamental ethical principle of the Golden Rule. Because this principle is intrinsically connected to the universal juridical patrimony that rejects genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity, religious leaders have the duty to promote this patrimony, which is called the natural law. They also have the obligation to remind those they lead and all society of the fraternity and solidarity, the respect and cooperation, that are the bulwark against totalitarianism and atrocity crimes. Religious leaders can strengthen the Responsibility to Protect by reminding everyone of the higher principles that can prevent atrocity crimes, by helping people live in such a way that atrocity crimes never occur, and to bringing about dialogue and the search for consensus when the international community must act. 

His statement can be found here.