INTERVENTION BY THE HOLY SEE
AT THE SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN DEBATE
ON "THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN COUNTERING
VIOLENT EXTREMISM AND PROMOTING PEACE"
H.E. ARCHBISHOP BERNARDITO AUZA,
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO AND
OBSERVER OF THE HOLY SEE TO THE UNITED NATIONS*
Thursday, 23 April 2015
Your Royal Highness,
At the outset, let me congratulate Jordan for its Presidency during this
month and, in particular, for scheduling this debate on the role of young people
in countering violent extremism and promoting peace.
The ever-increasing globalization and technological interconnectedness have
brought many benefits to our world today, but they have also created new and
emerging challenges. Young people around the world can use the internet and
social media to enter into contact, make friends and learn about the great
cultures and traditions of other people in every corner of the world.
Unfortunately, these great technological advances can also be manipulated to
spread messages of hate and violence. Today’s debate allows us to examine more
in depth how these harmful messages are finding new audiences and how States can
work together to face the challenge.
The phenomenon of young people’s responding to the recruitment of those
inciting them to engage in violent extremism develops within a context of
disillusionment and missed opportunities, of socio-cultural identity crisis and
failed integration, of alienation and dissatisfaction, of intergenerational
break-up and broken families.
A fundamental step in addressing the radicalization of young people is to
work with and support the family in its efforts to educate children and young
people in the values of dialogue and respect for others, to make them better
equipped to resist what appear at first as attractive calls to a “higher cause”
and to “adventure” with extremist groups. The family is the first educator of
children. If States really want to reach young people before they are exposed to
extremist ideologies, they should “render appropriate assistance to parents…in
the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.”(1)
Studies and events show that some governments tend to avoid frank and
constructive conversations on the question of radicalization. Hiding the problem,
however, is counterproductive. Fostering public debate, on the other hand, can
encourage young people to ventilate their frustrations before they succumb to
extremist ideologies, and can assist the State to articulate policies
accordingly. Failure to bring the problem into public discussion may imply
disinterest, fear or both, while encouraging debate will ordinarily promote
collective confidence and deeper mutual knowledge among the various ethnic or
racial, and religious components of society. This dialogue can lead to the
formulation of government policies of which all members of the society can claim
collective ownership, and offer young people convincing counter-narratives to
Indeed, balanced public policy plays a key role in facilitating a solid
integration of immigrants in society as citizens. Policies that discourage
xenophobic or racist perceptions are much needed, and contribute to the
observance of healthy religious and socio-cultural values.
Religion constitutes a potent part of these value systems. Policies and
education that seek to minimize or eliminate the faith component of individual
and collective identities could leave the young disoriented, alienated,
marginalized or excluded, and prone to the message of extremist groups. There is
no doubt that the catchwords and slogans used by extremist groups to recruit
young people often involve distorted religious and socio-cultural values.
Unemployment and despair also lie behind the vulnerability of many young
people towards the propaganda and manipulations of extremist recruiters. Idle
minds and hands are highly vulnerable to extreme ideologies. Thus, global
economic inequalities and the marginalization and exclusion from development to
which they lead are not only a grave social and economic concern, but can become
a threat to international peace and security. Thus, achieving social justice is
key to counter the phenomenon of young people’s joining extremist organizations.
Your Royal Highness,
In our fight against extremist ideologies and in our efforts to promote a
culture of peace, young people themselves are a most precious resource. We can
counter extremist recruiters by promoting voices that are trusted and respected
among their peers, in the very platforms they use to recruit new members, like
the social media.
Faith leaders and organizations must condemn messages of hate in the name of
religion and provide young people with the religious formation that fosters
understanding and respect between peoples of different faiths. People of faith
have a grave responsibility to condemn those who seek to detach faith from
reason and to instrumentalize faith as a justification for violence. As Pope
Francis emphasized during his
visit to Albania on 21 September 2014, no one
should consider oneself “to be the 'armour' of God while planning and carrying
out acts of violence and oppression!”
Thank you, Your Royal Highness.
1) Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 18.2