By Holy See Mission
Remarks of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, at the special event “Responding to the Needs of the Young and those living in Poverty: A Salesian Multi-dimensional Response” United Nations, New York, 5 March 2015 Your Eminence, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: The United Nations seeks to define sustainable development goals that are universally shared and person-centered. Collaboration between civil society and state institutions, between public and private sectors, is fundamental to assure the achievement of these goals. Our event this afternoon intends to be a contribution to furthering this partnership. Because the sustainable development goals can only be achieved if they are people-centered, it is crucial for the UN itself to learn of the experience of organizations working with people at the grassroots, to make certain that the needs and aspirations of individuals and groups on the fringes of society are not forgotten or, worse, intentionally ignored. Education is a fundamental - indeed, an indispensable – catalyst of sustainable development and socio-economic mobility, especially for those living in poverty and need. Almost two centuries of education in the spirit and method of Saint John Bosco has demonstrated that educating young people left outside the margins of economic progress is, indeed, a valid and perennial contribution to lifting people out of extreme poverty, to keeping disadvantaged young people from a life of criminality, and to making responsible men and women in society. Faith-based organizations have been major instruments for good within societies. Last February 18, I was invited to a roundtable convoked by the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, on the role of religions and faith-based organizations in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. Dr. Kim, who has decades of experience working with faith-based grassroots organizations, affirmed that the work that faith-based organizations do on the ground is fundamental for the reduction of extreme poverty. Experts at that roundtable said that even if the rosiest growth forecast for the next 15 years (2015-2030) were to come about, the world would still not be able to eradicate extreme poverty. Presently 14.5 percent of the world’s population is extremely poor, and the best case scenario, presuming high economic growth, would be to reduce that number to seven percent by 2030. With the collaboration of the faith-based organizations and other civic organizations, however, we can bring down that number to just 3 percent by 2030. It has been said that “we don’t do religion at the UN,” although some also say that this is not true anymore. We may not do religion as religion at the UN, but we can gather best practices and lessons learned from individuals and organizations whose achievements in lifting people out of poverty and other situations of marginalization are driven by religious faith and virtues. Today, we will listen to and learn from His Eminence Oscar Andrés Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and from Father Juan de la Cruz Ribadeneira, about educating the young and the poor according to the spirit and style of Saint John Bosco, the founder of the Society of the Salesian Fathers. Our distinguished Speakers are armed with the wisdom inherited from Don Bosco and matured through a life-long experience in education and human formation. Moreover, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga has two things that Don Bosco did not have: first, he is a Cardinal, and second, he is a licensed pilot! But Don Bosco has one thing that the Cardinal still does not have, and that one thing is all that matters, namely, being a saint. Of course, the Cardinal can have it only in the life hereafter! Our Speakers will talk about the “Salesian Approach” to education and human formation. They will describe for us Don Bosco’s “preventive method” in contrast to the repressive system that characterized the treatment of the disadvantaged young during his time. They will reveal to us the open secret of Don Bosco’s success, namely, educating with love and developing a healthy self-esteem among the young by creative activity. Don Bosco left this gem of wisdom to his disciples: “Let the boys have full liberty to jump, run and make as much noise as they please,” he said. “Gymnastics, music, theatricals and outings are most efficacious means of obtaining discipline and of benefiting spiritual and bodily health.” If that sounded good to the street children of Turin during the Industrial Revolution, it still sounds very good to me today! That is why the “Don Bosco Approach” continues to inspire and guide the educational endeavors of the Salesians in over 130 countries today. The bicentenary of Don Bosco’s birth that we celebrate this year is an excellent opportunity for us to rediscover his legacy and to commit ourselves to expanding it. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and salute the contributions of so many religious men and women, of many priests and laypeople, to education and responsible citizenship. I thank you for your attention.
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