High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace and on the theme “Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery"
New York, 7 September 2021
The Holy See welcomes the opportunity to address this High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace and on the theme “Transformative Role of The Culture of Peace: Promoting Resilience and Inclusion in Post-Covid Recovery.”
COVID-19 has deeply impacted humanity on an individual and societal level. Families have lost loved ones, lock-downs have impoverished human relationships and interactions, disrupted economies have sent many into poverty, and inequalities have been further exposed and exacerbated. Now is the time to rebuild with an approach steered by peace and fraternity and with more resilience and inclusion than before.
Resilience and inclusion in human relationships
At the most fundamental level, peace begins in the family, in friendships, and in everyday human interactions between persons. In his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis calls for a recovery of kindness in every day life. He writes, “Kindness frees us from the cruelty that at times infects human relationships, from the anxiety that prevents us from thinking of others… Once kindness becomes a culture within society it transforms lifestyles, relationships and the ways ideas are discussed and compared.” This kindness is not only important in everyday relations and exchanges but also in leadership and politics. COVID-19 recovery mechanisms will be most resilient and genuinely inclusive when they are grounded in open kindness and fraternity.
While we recover economically from COVID-19, we must also recover socially by rekindling and mending human relationships. As Pope Francis underlined, “Fraternity means the hand outstretched; fraternity means respect. Fraternity means listening with an open heart. Fraternity means firmness in one’s convictions. Because there is no true fraternity if one’s convictions are negotiated.” Nevertheless, understanding and maintaining an exchange in our differences of conviction, culture, religion, belief, race, ethnicity, and social status is central to achieving a culture of peace and a culture of inclusion where fears and prejudices are overcome through fraternity.
Resilience and inclusion of the poor and vulnerable
The COVID-19 pandemic has blatantly exposed the plight of the poor and those on the margins of our society; true recovery requires putting them first. Our inclusivity and, to a certain extent, our resilience can be measured by how our societies treat the poorest and those in vulnerable situations, especially in times of crisis. Only in respecting their dignity and valuing their contribution can they be truly integrated into society. Pope Francis calls for a “gaze transformed by charity”, which differentiates itself from the “soulless pragmatism” that often characterizes institutional recovery efforts. Truly sustainable recovery should give each human being the possibility of realizing his or her potential. Education, which has also been so greatly impacted by COVID-19, significantly serves this purpose. Pre-pandemic education levels must be reobtained and surpassed to make recovery possible and instill a culture of peace and fraternity.
Resilience and inclusion of the environment
Finally, we must also reconsider our culture of consumerism and its impact on our common home. Our economic systems, production patterns, energy use, and how we live our daily lives can only be resilient if they are sustainable. The negative impacts of excessive consumption, and most notably climate change, disproportionately affect the poor and those in vulnerable situations, not to mention the unrelenting and ever increasing spending on arms, including nuclear weapons, which continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment.Caring for the environment and considering it when adjusting our consumption patterns also results in caring for the poor, increasing the resilience of societies, communities, and individuals, creating a more inclusive post-COVID-19 society, and ultimately contributing to a culture of peace.
Peace, as we have heard so often, does not merely mean the absence of war but actively building a resilient and inclusive society, where individuals look at each other with kindness and fraternity, the poorest are included and uplifted, and our common home is treated with care.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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 Pope Francis, First International Day of Human Fraternity: Video Message of His Holiness Pope Francis, 4 February 2021.
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 Cf. Pope Francis, Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 25, 2020