"Human Rights Must Be Grounded in Human Nature"
WARSAW, Poland, 18 OCT. 2007 (ZENIT)
Here is the text of an address
delivered by the Holy See's representative, Monsignor Anthony Frontiero,
to the annual meeting of the Organization for Security Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE). The meeting was on the topic "Human Dimension
Implementation," and it took place Sept. 24-Oct. 5.
Monsignor Frontiero, an official of the Pontifical Council for Justice
and Peace, gave the address Sept. 25 on the theme of tolerance and
* * *
The delegation of the Holy See joins the previous delegations in
congratulating you for chairing this session, and expresses its
gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this important
In particular, the Holy See welcomes the addition of the new Web page on
Discrimination Against Christians that the Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the OSCE has recently posed on
TANDIS (Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System). Be assured
that the Holy See will do its part in assisting the ODIHR in following
and updating this new and important resource in the fight against the
discrimination of Christians.
In this regard, the Holy See would like to recommend that the OSCE
continue to advance its pro-active concern for this important matter in
clear and concrete ways, including monitoring and reporting data on
incidents of discrimination and intolerance against Christians, and by
sponsoring upcoming data to address this issue among the participating
states of the OSCE.
The consideration of tolerance and nondiscrimination at the outset of
this meeting is a positive indication of the political will in the OSCE
region to face squarely the problems between the interaction of cultures
and peoples, which constitute serious political and security issues, and
ultimately enables us to relate to one another peacefully and contribute
to the advancement of the human race.
The delegation of the Holy See continues to be concerned with the
all-too-often and flagrant violations against the right to freedom of
religion throughout the OSCE region. Despite the decisions adopted by
OSCE participating states to ensure and facilitate the freedom of the
individual to profess and practice a religion or belief, alone or in
community with others, through transparent and nondiscriminatory laws,
regulations, practices and policies, the realization of this commitment
remains yet to be seen.
Recent examples of such violations include: the unacceptable intolerance
demonstrated in an OSCE country, where some months ago three Christians
were brutally murdered; the condemnation, and in many cases detention
and arrest, of "unauthorized" religious minorities for "illegal
religious activities" because believers pray or go to church; and
state-introduced restrictions on religious freedom, including
restrictions on missionary activity. In some cases, despite the
indications of religious-motivated violence, local police forces fail to
intervene to stop attacks on religious minorities.
These episodes of religious violence highlight the underlying tension in
the OSCE region around religious freedom. They also are evidence of a
certain discrimination and intolerance against Christianity, and in some
cases a mockery of Christianity.
Deliberately mocking and undermining central tenets of the Christian
faith as a means to promoting the rights of other groups is a flagrant
contradiction to the religious freedom and mutual respect that all
people should enjoy, not to mention to the work of building a more just
and peaceful community. Such practices attempt to dismantle the progress
made thus far in the promotion of tolerance and nondiscrimination.
In his message for the celebration of the 2007 World Day of Peace, Pope
Benedict XVI recalled the urgent need, even within the framework of
current international difficulties and tensions, for a commitment to a
human ecology that favors the promotion of mutual respect and
understanding among peoples, which is a key to ending intolerance and
discrimination, and, ultimately to peaceful coexistence. Such a
commitment must be guided by a vision of the person untainted by
ideological and cultural prejudices or by political and economic
interests, which can often instill hatred and violence.
Notwithstanding the reality of differences that exist within the various
cultures of man, one element that cannot be admitted is the cultivation
of seeds of hostility and violence against fellow human beings. "Equally
unacceptable are conceptions of God that would encourage intolerance and
recourse to violence against others."
Peaceful coexistence among people is not only threatened by the
conflicts between ideologies, but also by indifference as to what
constitutes man's true nature. Many in contemporary society actually
deny the existence of a specific human nature, which only adds to
confusion and, in many cases, hinders authentic dialogue. Clarity in
this regard is needed so that a weak vision of the person will not open
the door to authoritarian impositions and leave people defenseless and
easy targets for oppression and violence.
A true human community where people can live together in peace and
security presupposes respect for human rights. Yet, if these rights are
grounded on a false conception of the person, how can they promote and
safeguard a society built on mutual respect and understanding?
Relativistic notions of what it means to be a person offer insufficient
justification and defense of human rights; because if rights are
absolute, how can they be founded on a notion that is merely relative?
Human rights, therefore, must be grounded in the objective requirements
of human nature. Otherwise, in some cases the human person is marked by
a permanent dignity, and rights that are always and everywhere valid; in
other cases a person may not have a permanent dignity, and negotiable
rights. This state of affairs is what we witness everyday in acts of
intolerance and discrimination.
Without a clear and strong awareness of who we are as persons, it will
always be easier to claim that some people are worthy of respect and
others are not; some people have the right to life, liberty, and
religious belief, and others do not. Objective truth about the dignity
of the human person created by God, and the rights and subsequent duties
and responsibilities that flow from that dignity, must be the basis for
any authentic discussion of every issue that is facing the human family.
Yet, the task at hand is not simply to condemn actual injustices in the
light of an adequately understood concept of the human person and human
dignity, but to work together for a meaningful new future.
Somehow, hopefully in part through our discussions in these days, we
must break through the collective individualism that so often fuels
discrimination and intolerance, and find our way to a new imagination
based on solidarity. Such a new imagination will lead to a fundamental
reinterpretation of social frameworks enabling them to truly foster
mutual respect and understanding, and authentically defend human rights
as basic conditions for life in community with others.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
 Cf. Benedict XVI, 2007, Message for the Celebration of the World Day
of Peace, No. 10.
 Cf. Ibid., No.11.
 Cf. Ibid., No.12.
 Cf. John Paul II, "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," No. 42.