“The Culture of Peace: Empowering and Transforming Humanity”
High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace:
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
New York, 13 September 2019
The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to address this High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace on this the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration and Programme of Action to address the theme: Empowering and Transforming Humanity.
The word culture, from its Latin root cultura, is linked to two other words that touch upon the most ordinary, as well the most sacred aspects of human life and existence, namely cultivation and cult. While the latter, in contemporary English, is often associated with less felicitous forms of religious or artistic expression, it should be recalled that its original significance refers to authentic religious veneration and devotion. Therefore, culture, like cultivation and cult, is, on the one hand, given, something received, but on the other, and most especially, something produced. In other words, we are not, or rather, should not be, passively carried along by culture, especially if this is inherently negative, but instead we can and must play our part in transforming and elevating the cultures to which we belong to secure a future of peace.
Each day, as visitors come to this building they stop and admire the Rockwell Mosaic that brings together, through color and symbolism, the diversity of the human family, expressed there through distinctive signs of different religious traditions. Yet, above all, that work of art seeks to highlight that fundamental ethical truth that continues to resonate in the hearts of all men and women of good will, which is often referred to as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. However, were we to turn that same statement around so that it read: Do not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you, then, perhaps attitudes would begin to change; our selfish tendencies would give way and we would take a serious look at our choices and behavior with a renewed commitment to take greater care of this planet, our common home, and, more importantly, of all who live there.
If the first way to promote the culture of peace is through education, then how can our thoughts not go to the many children and young people who dearly wish to return to class at this time of year or who dream of attending school for the very first time but are impeded because of conflict or because the dire economic situation of their family requires them to abandon instruction and to make an early entry into the work force? Let us recall that one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6, is to “substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training, by 2020”.
Since cultivation implies work, and cult refers to religious belief and practice, then it would seem important, in this High-Level Forum, to underline the contribution religion can make to forming a culture of peace, both to empower and transform individuals and indeed humanity as a whole.
In this regard, Madam President, it seems vital to underline the valuable role of religion – not the distorted forms of religious fanaticism or sectarianism which all too often make the headlines, but rather authentic religious belief and teaching – in promoting a culture of peace, particularly among the younger generations who are looking for guidance as they seek meaning and direction in their lives. Earlier this year, Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, co-signed a document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living together. The document is based on “the firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace; to defend the values of mutual understanding, human fraternity and harmonious coexistence; to re-establish wisdom, justice and love; and to reawaken religious awareness among young people so that future generations may be protected from the realm of materialistic thinking and from dangerous policies of unbridled greed and indifference that are based on the law of force and not on the force of law”.1
A culture of peace is the best environment for integral development, for the transformation and empowerment of all. Such a culture provides the all-important space for education and learning, so that children and young people can be well formed, for as “wars begin in the minds of men, it is [likewise] in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”.2 Akin to land that is patiently worked and cultivated, for peace to take root, to grow and indeed to flourish, it demands commitment and unceasing effort: a truly noble and sacred task that is within the reach of us all.
Thank you, Madam President.
- Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019.