Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Third Committee of the 70th Session of the General Assembly
Agenda Item 70: Elimination of racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance
New York, 3 November 2015
My delegation wishes to thank the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance for his Report. The Report’s recommendations regarding xenophobia and religious intolerance are especially relevant and deserve serious consideration.
Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are a serious affront to human dignity and are inexcusable impediments to building an international community committed to the promotion of human rights. Human dignity is not something conferred by the State or by any human law. It is not subject to whatever form of social or economic status. It does not disappear in a moment of need or vulnerability; rather, it is inherent to every human being regardless of race, sex, national or ethnic origin, religion or social, economic and cultural circumstances.
There are currently more than 60 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons worldwide as a result of conflicts and persecutions. Fifteen new conflicts have broken out or have been reignited in the past five years, while numerous persistent conflicts remain unresolved. Even more frightening is the fact that there seems to be no end in sight. The number of people globally displaced by conflict has nearly quadrupled since last year, increasing from roughly 11,000 in 2010 to 42,500 daily, so many of whom have been driven away from their homes and countries by one form of discrimination or another.
Pope Francis exhorts us that in finding a response to the many crises literally knocking at our door, “we must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation,” in a way that “is always humane, just and fraternal.”
My delegation is fully aware of the legal and other complexities of migration, especially in cases of massive forced exodus or displacements due to conflicts or catastrophes. Over and above all other considerations, however, it is necessary always to see the human face of migration, to recognize the migrant as a fellow human being, endowed with the same human dignity and rights as we are. This is most especially true when we deal with persons who were forced to migrate against their will, like the refugees, the persecuted for religious or ethnic reasons, and those who are being trafficked for sexual exploitation, slave labor and other forms of abuse.
We must resist the tendency to recoil at the enormity and complexity of the crisis. We must fight the temptation to turn inward, labeling the “other” as a threat to our way of life. We must make the crisis we face as an opportunity to realize a more just and fraternal world for all.
In many of the countries of origin of migrants and refugees, the most heinous crimes against religious freedom have been and continue to be committed: executions, forced conversions, egregious “religious taxes” and confiscation of properties as “penalties” for professing another religion. Religious and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by these abuses perpetrated by violent non-state actors who are clearly intent on destroying religious, cultural and ethnic diversities. The Holy See appeals to the International Community to do all it can to stop violent non-state actors who wantonly violate fundamental human rights.
Moreover, my delegation calls on the States and Governments concerned to reconsider national laws that are susceptible to fomenting xenophobia, religious and ethnic discrimination and even violence. We call on those of all religions to respect one another and at all times to leave open channels of dialogue and avenues of concrete cooperation to foster mutual knowledge and appreciation.
Racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance have no place in a world committed to peace, genuine pluralism and the common good of all humanity.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Opening Remarks of Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at the 66th Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme, Geneva, 5 October 2015.