INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
ADDRESS OF H.E. MONS. SILVANO MARIA TOMASI*
1. Human Dignity: the universal "common ground"
Dialogue and cooperation in the implementation of human rights are rightly set as a critical goal for the new Human Rights Council. In this context, the Delegation of the Holy See is deeply persuaded that respect for human dignity is the common ground and the necessary component on which the human family can engage in a successful human rights education, promotion and protection. In fact, human dignity provides equal value for both individuals (born or conceived) and peoples in their rich original diversity, and its respect calls for effective action and sincere dialogue among States: it is a spiritual and moral imperative for the international community. No doubt, all human rights and fundamental freedoms must be promoted and protected, including the important issues identified in the present debate. In our contemporary world where we witness the complexities of globalization, of persistent conflicts and of wrong perceptions, it seems useful to reflect on two emerging issues: the public role of religions and the massive human mobility.
2. Role of religions
In the present circumstances, religion is often considered as a factor of division and social tensions, or, even worse, as a threat to human rights, peace and security. However, religion, as history shows, has spread positive values, revealed the dignity of human beings and of creation. It represents an important element of the art and culture of nations and of entire regions of the world. It contributes to human development and can open populations to creative dialogue. It is the manipulation and defamation of religion which threaten human dignity, rights, peace and security. Within the framework of international law (but, also, according to reason and common sense), the right to freedom of religion or belief must be balanced, but never denied in the name of other fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, which is neither absolute nor includes the right to offend or defame the sensibility, the identity and deep convictions of other communities and their members. All human rights and fundamental freedoms should be exercised with responsibility and respect of others. The educational task of States and International Institutions should then be that of building a universal consciousness of the need of respect for all cultures and religions, and of a responsible use of the media and the internet.
3. Freedom of religion or belief
Freedom of religion or belief must be counted among the highest expressions of the human spirit. According to the international human rights law "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance". This fundamental right cannot be derogated even in the case of "public emergency which threatens the life of the nation" (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, articles 18 and 4). However, even now, the international community faces widespread religious intolerance and violence against individuals and communities of different religious beliefs, whose basic rights and freedoms are violated in more or less sophisticated ways (inter alia, believers imprisoned or killed for their practice or choice of a religion, places of worship confiscated or destructed, cemeteries desecrated, religions ridiculed or stereotyped by media, etc.). In addition, some legal and judicial systems, due to historical and social factors, have not yet developed adequate mechanisms to protect religious minorities and their members. The sad experience of several religious communities has found expression in this forum. This Delegation shares in such feelings of sorrow and frustration and recalls the many Christian communities in a similar situation. A determined political will as well as cooperation among States, in a spirit of mutual respect and reciprocity, are needed to prevent and resolve such situations.
4. The international status of migrants
Dialogue and cooperation are also essential in order to address effectively the massive flows of migrants who criss-cross the world to provide their skills and work in exchange for a decent living. In an increasing number of cases powerful criminal organizations exploit these people and traffic and smuggled them as merchandise. The international community rightly advocates both an orderly movement of people in the respect of national sovereignty and the protection of their human rights. Due to their uprootedness caused by poverty, natural disasters, persecution for political or religious motives, these people on the move have been recognized as a vulnerable group to be protected by specific human rights conventions.
The Delegation of the Holy See underlines the consistency of these legal developments that uphold the migrants' human dignity, their rights and fundamental freedoms as for any other person as members of society,(1) look at them not just for their functional role for the economy but also as bearers of cultures and religious traditions, a resource for mutual enrichment, an occasion of "encounter of civilizations" and an opportunity of dialogue, not a reason of fear of differences.
It is in fact the recognition of the migrants' human dignity and the migrants' recognition of the values of the host society, that make possible the migrants' healthy integration in the social, economic and political systems of the countries of adoption. Therefore, a balanced management of migration flows and human mobility in general (as against the tragic phenomena of deportations and forced disappearances), can benefit the human family and even make up for demographic imbalances.
In conclusion, the Human Rights Council represents a new opportunity for States and International Institutions to review their human rights policy and jointly engage in their implementation together with civil society, Non Governmental Organizations, Human Rights Defenders, and other stakeholders. Aware of the challenges facing the Human Rights Council, this Delegation is convinced that the Council can indeed become the desired third pillar of the UN System. In this way it will contribute to the peaceful coexistence of the human family on the solid foundation of human dignity and rights, freedom and justice, solidarity and development. The expectations of millions of victims of daily discrimination and violation of the most elementary human rights will not be disappointed.
Thank You, Mr President.
(1) As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states: "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation... of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality" (article 22).
*L’Osservatore Romano, 3-4.7.2006 p.2.