Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on
“The situation in the Middle East”
New York, 22 October 2015
My delegation wishes to thank Spain’s Security Council Presidency for convening this Open debate on “The situation in the Middle East,” which could not be timelier as the region is literally on fire.
As we count the dead, we must not obscure the plight of the wounded, the displaced and the refugees who are continually subjected to great fear and peril, even as they flee from the senseless violence in the Middle East that completely disregards the most elementary terms of international humanitarian law and, indeed, of humanity. This horrific picture plays out daily in the media as migrants and refugees flood the European continent seeking some small measure of peace and security, but who are not always welcome. What of the children and the women? What of the elderly, the maimed and the handicapped? Where is the distinction between combatants and non-combatants?
My delegation considers it its grave duty to remind the international community once again that extremists are seeking to eradicate religions, ethnic groups and cultures that have been in the Middle East for millennia. My delegation is deeply concerned for the plight of Christians and other groups in ISIL-controlled territories, in particular those who are held captive for ransom and for every type of enslavement. The Holy See also highlights with sadness the wanton destruction of the priceless cultural patrimony of humanity in the region.
Pope Francis, in his Address to the General Assembly on September 25, renewed his “repeated appeals regarding the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.”
Grave conflicts in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, have been ongoing since the birth of the United Nations. The violence that characterizes the present situation not only proves that these problems have not been solved or not have gone away; on the contrary, they seem to be more and more intractable. In recent years other very serious conflicts, in particular the Syrian crisis, add to the complexity of the problems in the region.
It is so regrettable that the Middle East - a cradle of great civilizations, the birthplace of the three main monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is immersed in a situation which combines every form of conflict and every possible subject: State and non-State combatants, ethnic and cultural groups, fundamentalist terrorism and organized criminality, religious and ethnic hatred, regional and international geopolitical rivalries…
In such a context, flooding the region with more and more destructive weapons will not end the conflicts. Instead of arms and munitions, the international community needs to imbue the region with more courageous, impartial and persevering negotiations and mediations.
My delegation avails itself of this opportunity to reiterate the Holy See’s profound gratitude to those countries in the region who, in spite of their own difficult situations and limited resources, have welcomed and taken care of millions of refugees. On her part, the Catholic Church remains active at the forefront in providing humanitarian aid through churches, schools, medical facilities, rehabilitation centers and pastoral care institutions, to all those in need with all the means at her disposal.
My delegation calls on the international community to assist countries in the region to maintain political stability and to provide the necessary economic resources to deal properly with the massive dislocations of populations within and outside the borders of the countries in conflict. In particular, we must work to stabilize Lebanon as it deals with a huge refugee influx and as it struggles to normalize its own institutions, in the first place the Presidency.
My delegation cites in conclusion the words of Pope Francis in his letter to the Secretary-General dated 9 August 2014: “The most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities and to protect innocent peoples.”
Thank you, Mr. President.