International Community Must Fight Discrimination Against Christians

Author: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

International Community Must Fight Discrimination Against Christians

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone

Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State and Head of the Holy See Delegation at the OSCE Summit

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, SDB, Secretary of State and Head of the Delegation of the Holy See gave the following discourse at the Summit of Heads of State and Government organized by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), held in Astana, Kazakhstan. This first Summit since the Istanbul Meeting 1999, brought together 38 Heads of State and Government, one Vice-President, seven Deputy Prime Ministers, 14 Ministers and other top officials from OSCE participating States and Partners for Cooperation, as well as from other international and regional organizations. The following is a translation of Cardinal Bertone's Discourse, which was given in Italian.

Mr President,
Your Excellencies,

I would like first of all to express my gratitude to the President of Kazakhstan for his kind and cordial welcome to all the authorities on the occasion of this Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe — the first in the 21st century. Thank you too for your exquisite hospitality, shown in many ways!

My gratitude also goes to the Administrative Authorities of Kazakhstan as well as to all those who prepared the meeting and saw to the organizational details. The Holy See extends its deepest gratitude to each and every one.

A special "thank you" is due to the present Kazakhi Presidency, which has succeeded, with perseverance and great commitment, in convincing the States Parties of the usefulness of this step and which, with its tireless work, has created the necessary conditions to encourage important political decisions for the Organization.

Kazakhstan is a country with centuries of history which knows how important and urgent peace is! Its geographical location makes it a borderland and a land of encounter. Here, in these boundless steppes, men and women belonging to different races, culture and religion have met and continue to meet.

I cannot but recall the words of Abai Kunanbai, the great Kazakhi thinker and poet: "Love and justice are humanity's principles, they are the crowning of the work of the Most High" (Sayings, chapter 45).

In a certain sense these principles of love and justice are at the root of the Helsinki Final Act, of which this year is the 35th anniversary. Its Final Document is one of thee most significant instruments of the international dialogue. In fact the 35 countries which signed it reached a fundamental agreement; peace is not only assured when weapons are silent; rather, it is the result of the cooperation of individuals on the one hand and of societies themselves on the other; it is also the result of respect for certain ethical imperatives.

The famous "10 principles" that open the Final Document form the foundation on which the peoples of Europe, for years victims of wars and divisions, have wished to consolidate and preserve peace so as to enable the future generations to live in harmony and security. The authors of the Final Document have clearly understood that peace would be very precarious without fruitful cooperation between nations and individuals, without a better quality of life and without the promotion of the values they have in common.

Mr President,

How up to date these "10 principles are"! Indeed, along with the undeniable progress achieved, sectors undoubtedly exist in which the weakening of reciprocal trust between States Parties has prevented the attainment of more ambitious goals. The Summit must concentrate its efforts on these sectors if it is to offer precise instructions for the development of its activities in 2011 and in the years to come.

With regard to the first — political and military — dimension, we cannot but congratulate ourselves on the fact that in the more than 10 years that have passed since the last Summit in Istanbul; after being effectively opposed by the implementation of important instruments on Arms Control and Security Building Measures, the traditional threats to security which had characterized the previous years have been undermined.

Nevertheless, the armament situation (forces in the field, teaching their use, organization and the new weapons technologies), has evolved. It is therefore appropriate that this Summit accordingly take note, engaging the States Parties to negotiate improvements and the updating of the existing instruments and, should this prove necessary, to conceive of new ones.

We are of course referring to the revitalization of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), to a complete reexamination of the 1999 Vienna Document — and why not? — of possible developments of the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security.

In this regard an important preparatory study was undertaken by the Forum for Security Cooperation, under the competent direction of the various Presidencies which have succeeded one another — most recently that of Ireland — to which we offer our unanimous applause. This makes us optimistic about further progress.

A similar if not even greater impetus must be given to the efforts to solve the long drawn out conflicts which, even in their localized dimensions, pose a grave threat to security and stability throughout the OSCE area.

The potentials of the Organization should also be refined, limiting them to the sectors in which it can make an original contribution in the fight against the threat of terrorism.

I acknowledge the efforts that the Secretariat is making in this regard through its specialized units and in agreement on the expedience of closer coordination.

Lastly, I hope that those activities which more immediately affect the security of citizens, such as the elimination of the threat of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition SCA), the fight against Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and the safeguard of the cyber-environment.

Mr President,

The Helsinki Final Act also recognized the importance of the economic and environmental factors for peace, security and cooperation.

In this regard the Holy See never ceases to reaffirm that the common goal of States must be the protection and respect of human dignity that unites the entire human family, a unity rooted in the four fundamental principles of the centrality of the human person, solidarity, subsidiariety and the common good. These principles are more than consonant with the comprehensive concept of security on which our Organization is founded and constitute a continuous reference to what the political community must take on.

In his latest Encyclical Caritas in Veritate Pope Benedict XVI says: "The great challenge before us, accentuated by the problems of development in this global era and made even more urgent by the economic and financial crisis, is to demonstrate, in thinking and behaviour, not only that traditional principles of social ethics like transparency, honesty and responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that in commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and of truth" (n. 36).

Indeed, the economic and financial crisis itself has demonstrated the importance of the ethical dimension for the economic and environmental sector, as well as the need not to overlook the principles of solidarity, of giving freely and of the logic of the gift also in interstate relations, if we are to be able to achieve fair, just and lasting peace and security.

The Holy See considers it urgently necessary to introduce a logic that will make the human person, and in particular the family and the needy, the centre and the purpose of the economy.

The Summit offers us a unique opportunity to face the daily challenges of peace and security, caused also by economic and environmental problems, and to reaffirm an integrated approach to the implementation of all the human rights, including financial and social rights. I would like here to recall the principle of solidarity among the peoples, essential for economic and social progress. Solidarity also implies the commitment of States to develop cooperation, in order to improve the wellbeing of peoples and to contribute to satisfying their aspirations. The advantages of achievements in the economic, scientific, technical, social, cultural and humanitarian fields, will help create favourable conditions for making these advantages accessible to all by reducing the gaps between the levels of economic development.

A particular area in which OSCE could intensify its activities is technical and scientific cooperation is by facilitating the transfer of technologies and know-how in the areas of transport, frontier management and energy and cyber security.

In the environmental context attention to water — a fundamental necessity for life — is indispensable. The availability of a sufficient quantity water of satisfactory quality must be guaranteed to every human being. A greater availability of water means more food, less hunger and better health and is a general incentive for sustainable development.

The Holy See also supports other themes with which OSCE has traditionally been involved. These include, among others, the promotion of good governance, the fight against corruption, the safety and efficacity of transport, the prevention of natural disasters, caused by man and by nature itself, such as the management of migratory flows, with special attention to the rights of migrants and of their families.

Especially in these times of economic crisis, there is a tendency to forget the rights of migrants. We must recall, in any case, that all human beings, without exception, including migrants, are endowed with inalienable rights that cannot be violated or, even less, ignored. The migrant's status does not delete his human dignity. Furthermore, States must act in such a way as to assure legally resident migrant workers proper employment and social security.

In reference to the rights of migrants we cannot forget the family. It has a fundamental value in the construction of any society. The Holy See emphasizes, in a special way, the right of families to be reunited, which the States Parties, in particular, endeavoured to facilitate in the Final Helsinki Act, in the Madrid Document in 1983 and in the Final Document of Vienna in 1989.

Mr President, The discussions on which the Corfu Process was founded placed the accent on the fact that the acquis which the OSCE has built up over the years contains commitments of great importance for the defence of the fundamental freedoms and of human rights, for the right to integral human development and for support by international law and by the global institutions. The CSCE and the OSCE have always had on their respective agendas the promotion and protection of human rights. The dignity of the human person is what motivates our Organization to work for the effective implementation of all the human rights.

These fundamental freedoms include religious freedom. This has become a recurrent theme in the context of international affairs. The problem has become part of the culture of our time, since our contemporaries have learned much from the excesses of the past and have realized that to believe in God, practising religion and joining others in expressing their own faith, is not a concession bestowed on them by the State but a true right, founded on the dignity of the human person. Religious freedom protects the transcendent dimension of the human being and expresses his or her right to seek God and to relate to him, both as an individual and as a community of believers.

The developments of recent years and the progress made in drafting the various texts issued by the OSCE demonstrate more and more clearly that religious freedom can exist in different social systems. Unfortunately one notes an "increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance" (Address to British society, Westminster Hall, London, 17 September 2010; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, [ORE] 22 September, 2010, p. 12). The idea of religion as a form of alienation is denied by the observation that believers constitute a fundamental axis for the common good.

The religious life, as an important factor for the social and cultural life of countries, is not only threatened by oppressive restrictions, but also by relativism and by a false secularism that excludes religion from public life. This is why it is of vital importance for believers to participate freely in the public debate in order to present a vision of the world inspired by their faith. In this way they contribute to the moral growth of the society in which they live. The States Parties of the OSCE have increasingly acquired the awareness that a frank comparison of ideas and convictions is an indispensable condition for their overall development. For this reason the "Vancouver to Vladivostok" zone is entitled to to expect of religions an effective contribution to social coherence, in security and in peace.

Closely linked to religious freedom are intolerance and discrimination for religious reasons, especially against Christians. It is widely documented that Christians are the religious group that is most persecuted and discriminated against. More than 200 million Christians, belonging to various denominations, are in difficult situations because of legal and cultural structures.

The international community must fight intolerance and discrimination against Christians with the same determination with which it combats the hatred of members of other religious communities. Moreover the States Parties to the OSCE are committed to doing so.

In the Round Table discussions of March 2009 it became clearly apparent that intolerance and discrimination against Christians are expressed in different forms throughout the OSCE area. In some countries intolerant and discriminatory laws, decisions and forms of behaviour, actions and omissions that deny this freedom already exist.

Recurrent episodes of violence and even murders of Christians are recorded. Excessive restrictions remain with regard to the registering of Churches and religious communities, as well as against the importation and distribution of their religious material. There is also illegal interference in the area of their autonomy at an organizational level, which prevents them from acting in a manner consistent with their moral convictions. At times excessive pressure, accompanied by clear signs of resistance to recognition of the public role of religion, is exerted on people employed in the public administration. This damages their right to follow the dictates of their own conscience.

Civic education is deficient in respect for the identity and principles of Christians and of the members of other religions. Not even the means of communication and public discourses are always free from attitudes of intolerance, and sometimes, regarding both Christians and the members of other religions, from outright denigration. The OSCE should therefore develop effective proposals to combat the above-mentioned forms of injustice.

Mr President,

The Holy See has always been aware of the gravity of the crime of human trafficking, a modern form of slavery. This very day is World Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

All the efforts made to tackle criminal activities and to protect the victims of trafficking must include men and women and must focus all the strategies on human rights. The same approach must be applied to other forms of trafficking, such as the illegal forms of subcontracting, which profit from conditions of work based on exploitation.

The trade in human beings is a pluri-dimensional problem, often linked to migration but which goes far beyond the sex industry and includes the forced labour of men, women and children in various industrial and commercial sectors. If on the one hand forced labour is linked to discrimination, poverty, local customs, the lack of land and the illiteracy of the victim, on the other, it is connected with flexible and cheap labour. The various forms of trafficking require different measures and approaches which aim to restore dignity to the victims.

To forestall the trafficking of human beings today there is frequently recourse to more severe immigration policies, to tougher border controls and to the battle against organized crime. Yet, as long as the repatriated victims find themselves in the same conditions from which they sought to escape, it will not be easy to put an end to trafficking. Thus anti-trafficking initiatives must also aim at developing and offering practical possibilities for escape from the poverty-abuse-exploitation cycle. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his Encyclical Spe Salvi: "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society" (n. 38).

Mr President,

The Final Declaration of the Summit — and likewise the Plan of Action — testifies to the timeliness of the "10 Helsinki Principles". These documents reveal to the world that the commitments agreed by the OSCE are strong and noble, they are supported by a solid mandate and by the principle of consensus. The Holy See reaffirms these commitments and encourages the Organization firmly to abide by them. them firmly.

May I be permitted, Mr President, to end my intervention by citing the words of Pope John Paul II during his Pastoral Visit to Finland in 1989.

In addressing the members of the Paasikivi Association he said: "in the noble task of carrying on the Helsinki process, the Catholic Church will not fail to go forward with you, side by side, in that discreet manner which befits her religious mission. She is convinced of the validity of the ideal embodied here 14 years ago in a document which for millions of Europeans is more than a Final Act: it is an "act of hope"! (Address to the members of the Paasikivi Association, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland, 5 June 1989; ORE, 19 June 1989, p. 3). May the Summit meeting in Astana be another "act of hope" for our generation.

Thank you, Mr President!

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
15 December 2010, page 12

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