Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Eighth Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations
Commit2Dialogue: Partnerships for Prevention and Sustaining Peace
New York, 20 November 2018
The Holy See commends the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations for choosing as its theme for the Eighth Global Forum the importance of dialogue and partnerships to prevent violence and sustain peace.
Cultivating dialogue and fostering intercultural and interreligious partnerships have become even more important in the present age. Besides preventing clashes of civilizations, at times there seems to be an even more basic need to prevent clashes about civilization itself, as debates become more heated about what constitutes a civilization.
No effective partnership among cultures and religions can be established without mutual knowledge and respect. Creating a partnership requires dialogue. Dialogue, however, is only the first step: it should lead to identifying the solid ground upon which a lasting partnership can be built. Such common ground should consist of mutual respect for one another’s religious beliefs and a shared conviction of religion as a positive force in society. Today, religions are at times manipulated or misunderstood as being part of the problem, when, in fact, they are and should be considered part of the solution to the problems that exist among different cultures and civilizations. As Pope Francis has reminded us, “Religion itself, the religious dimension, is not a subculture; it is part of the culture of every people and every nation.”
In a world where various forms of domination seek to suppress religious freedom, or seek to confine it to the private sphere, as if it were a subculture without a right to a voice in the public square, or use it as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that followers of the various religious traditions join voices in calling for peace and respect for the dignity of every human person inclusive of his or her religious identity and beliefs. In the Appeal for Peace, signed by religious leaders during the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi two years ago, religious leaders pledged “to bring about encounters through dialogue, and to oppose every form of violence and abuse of religion which seeks to justify war and terrorism.” When we truly enter into dialogue, nothing is lost. The interreligious meetings in Assisi, which began at the invitation of Pope John Paul II in 1986, have brought people together without denying their differences, going beyond barriers and fears, giving life to real interreligious friendships, and offering a genuine contribution to the resolution of several conflicts.
Catholic institutions have established and continue to generate movements and associations that educate young people in the ways of tolerance and peace. Many of them are associated with the network of Catholic schools spread throughout the world and dedicated to educating future generations to build integrated and peaceful societies. Catholic movements — such as the Focolare Movement, Communion and Liberation and the Sant’Egidio Community — form young people to commit themselves to live, work and pray for peace and unity; promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue through lectures, debates, open-ended groups and marches for peace; and create opportunities for education, dialogue and friendship among young people from every background and religious tradition.
The Holy See believes that “peace is the only true direction of human progress,” and 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 should never be taken for granted and must constantly be sought. It is a commitment, because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and strive for peace.
The religions of the world are agents — working individually, but most effectively when they come together — in advancing the cause of peace and security in the world where others seek division. They do so precisely by helping all to appreciate this fragile gift, to cultivate it and to pray for it, seeking through teaching and example to inspire billions of believers and non-believers alike to rise up to meet this challenge in every generation and by manifesting the passionate, patient and persevering commitment to the work of peacebuilding.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. Pope Francis, Address to the Hispanic Community and other Immigrants, Philadelphia, 26 September 2015.
2. Appeal, World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 20 September 2016.
3. Pope Paul VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968.
4. Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017.