September 7, 2017
High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace

Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza,
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
United Nations

at the High-Level Forum on a Culture of Peace
New York, 7 September 2017


Mr. President,

My Delegation wishes to thank you for this opportunity to exchange ideas on promoting a Culture of Peace, especially as it relates to early childhood development.

For the Holy See, the theme of children and the culture of peace could not have come at a better time, as the Catholic Church celebrates the centenary of the Apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. In the clamor and bloodletting of the Great War, the message of Fatima was above all one of peace, and it was entrusted to three children who were only seven, nine and ten years old.

This message of peace is just as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago. It cries to be heard today when the globe is caught in a “world war fought piecemeal,” as Pope Francis has observed, where violent conflicts, acts of terrorism, utter violations of fundamental human rights and extreme poverty suffocate efforts for peace.

The promotion of a culture of peace among children is crucial for a future of peace. Key to instilling this value in children is to educate them in a “culture of encounter”, which involves an authentic atmosphere of respect, esteem, sincere listening and solidarity, without the need to blur or lessen one’s identity. Such a culture would enable children to respond actively and constructively to the many forms of violence, poverty, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, and other indignities. Educational institutions must therefore seek to impart to them the “grammar of dialogue” which, as Pope Francis recently affirmed, is the basis of encounter and the means of harmonizing cultural and religious diversity. Forming the youth and children in this grammar of intellectual conversation, aimed at discovering the truth together, will leave them with the motivation to build bridges and find peaceful solutions to the various forms of violence in our time.

My Delegation believes that the first condition in fostering a culture of peace is the defense and promotion of the full vision of the human person and human dignity. A reductive vision of the human person opens the way to the spread of injustice, social inequality and corruption.

A culture of peace implies fighting injustice and rooting out, in a nonviolent way, the causes of discord that lead to wars. Peace involves renouncing violence in vindicating one’s rights. Countering violence with violence leads to more death and destruction, deeper resentment and hatred, forced mass migrations and the diversion of vast amounts of resources from development to military ends.

In this respect, fostering a culture of peace entails persevering efforts toward disarmament and the reduction of reliance on armed force in the conduct of international affairs. Every effort in this direction, however modest, helps to build a culture of peace. The Holy See continues to call for a more energetic commitment to underline the deep linkages between the promotion of the culture of peace and the strengthening of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The proliferation of weapons clearly aggravates situations of conflict and results in huge human and material costs that profoundly undermine development and the search for lasting peace.

Moreover, a culture of peace can only thrive in a culture of forgiveness. Forgiveness is central to reconciliation and peacebuilding, because it makes healing and the rebuilding of human relations possible. Forgiveness is not opposed to justice but rather its fulfillment, because at the same time as it categorically condemns evil as evil, it leads to the profound healing of the wounds that fester in human hearts. A culture of peace therefore involves the courageous choice of not allowing the wounds of the past to bleed into the present and future.

My Delegation is pleased to seize this occasion to reiterate its confidence in the United Nations as one of the key institutions at mankind’s disposal for the flourishing of a culture of peace. This can only be possible if, as Pope John Paul II said before this very Assembly in 1995, this Organization “rise[s] more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution… to become a moral center where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a ‘family of nations.’” Harnessing the collective political will of the members and other stakeholders of this Organization will greatly enable it to become a real locus for the cultivation of a culture of peace. 

Mr. President,

In his Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of this year, Pope Francis affirmed that “peace is a gift, a challenge and a commitment.” It is a gift “because it flows from the very heart of God.” It is a challenge “because it is a good that can never be taken for granted and must constantly be achieved.” And it is a commitment “because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and build it.”

Thank you, Mr. President.