By Holy See Mission
WORLD CITIES DAY 2014 Conference on People-Centered Urbanization: Managing Ethnic Diversity in Today’s Cities UN ECOSOC Chamber, New York, 31 October 2014 Statement of Archbishop Bernardito Auza Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United NationsExcellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to thank the Permanent Missions of Italy and the People’s Republic of China, the UN-Habitat and the UN Alliance of Civilizations for organizing today’s conference to commemorate the first “World Cities Day”, centered on this highly relevant theme: People-Centered Urbanization: Managing Ethnic Diversity in Today’s Cities. The urbanization of our world and the accelerating growth of our cities has created new and emerging challenges, not only in view of their economic and political advancement, but even more fundamentally for the social, cultural, physical and spiritual well-being and development of their inhabitants. While cities offer tremendous opportunities, the context of big cities also breeds various forms of corruption and criminal activities, like human trafficking, the drug trade and drug abuse, the exploitation of the weak. Even significant places of encounter, like public parks and other public spaces, often become dangerous. Neighborhoods and “enclaves” are formed to isolate rather than to connect and integrate people. This is one of the great paradoxes of today’s increasing urbanization: Cities bring us physically and economically closer together, while often simultaneously accelerating social, cultural, religious and economic isolation and segregation. Addressing this paradox requires a renewed commitment to promoting people-centered integral development. Such a vision of development does not only seek to address necessary economic and political development; it also seeks to promote authentic human development through promoting cultural, spiritual, social and physical development. Migration, mainly internal migration from the rural areas, has been one of the strongest driving forces of megacities, oftentimes giving birth to vast slums, areas of lawlessness, greater marginalization and socio-economic inequality. In many cases, international migration have created ghettos that do not favor social integration. Thus, migration requires cooperation and solidarity, so that those individuals and families from different socio-economic, ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds may be in the best position to find integration and adaptation. Mere tolerance that respects diversity in cultures and backgrounds is insufficient. We must move away from the fear of the other, of the new people in the block, towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter. As recognized in the concept note, vital to promoting people-centered urbanization and greater ethnic and racial encounter is providing public spaces in which communities can come together. Welcoming this recommendation, I wish to avail of this occasion to reiterate that the Holy See and the Catholic Church will continue to provide spaces to promote greater social integration and cohesion, such as schools, churches and community centers. Knowing one another is key to mutual respect, and mutual respect, which includes respect for fundamental human rights including religious freedom, is key to building community and to fostering a more vibrant and inclusive society. Again, congratulations to the organizers and panelists of this event. Thank you.
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