Use of force is a last resort against Islamic State – Vatican diplomat

By Andrea Gagliarducci

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Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in Geneva, speaking Aug. 25, 2014. Credit: Joaquin Piero Perez/CNA.

By presenting a joint statement to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council to support Christians and other communities in the Middle East, the Holy See has fostered a new diplomatic approach to protect communities and raise the international focus on a top issue.

The approach is an alternative to the use of force against the Islamic State, which can only be "the very last choice," Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Holy See Permanent Observer to the UN office in Geneva, told EWTN News.

The joint statement, he said, “is news in the world of the Human Rights Council, since it is the first time we explicitly mention the category of Christian persons, though we also mention the presence of other communities.”

Drafted together with Lebanon and Russia, the statement from the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva was presented March 13 during the assembly of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council.

The joint statement clearly recognizes the abuses suffered by persons from any religious, ethnic and cultural background, simply because they want to exercise their freedom of religion and belief without being persecuted or killed.

Archbishop Tomasi explained that the Human Rights Council is the “third pillar on which the United Nations are grounded,” and so the statement has the goal to “sensitize this pillar of the United Nations so that the human rights of people persecuted because of religion are preserved.”

Archbishop Tomasi stressed that “in the past there has been a certain reticence to speak out clearly on the religious issue, because of complex military or political situations, or because of a certain fear to foster a negative reactions by voters in Western countries, or other reasons, and so Christians have never been mentioned.”

But today – the Holy See Observer stressed – “Christians are the main target of the violence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.”

As the joint statement has been signed by “almost 70 countries, with different backgrounds,” Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that “we must foster dialogue, and this what the Holy See has always committed to,” though on the other hand a military intervention to block the Islamic State might be needed.

Archbishop Tomasi underscored that “our final goal is certainly to negotiate and to put violence to an end, and to solve any contrast among countries through peaceful tools.”

The use of force must come “as the very last choice,” he said, explaining  that the catechism only justifies the use of force “according to the principle of the lesser evil, that is, that every intervention must be intended to safeguard people whose fundamental rights are violated.”

“This approach does not contradict the approach of dialogue … it mirrors the limits of our human experience, as situations that contradict our ideals may come out,” Archbishop Tomasi said.

The Holy See Permanent Observer hoped for a United Nations intervention.

“At this moment, the United Nations can encourage the larger countries and the countries of the Middle East region to sit all together around a table to stop the violence.”

In the case of an eventual military intervention, the United Nations “are called to make the decision to do so, and their function is crucial as they avoid private interests to overcome the common good or the interest of people the international community aims to help.”

On the other hand, the apostolic nuncio stressed that “a reform of the United Nations’ Security Council has been widely discussed, since most of the difficulties to make the decisions lies in the way the Security Council is conceived, since the crossed vetos of some of the countries block the possibility to get to a common action.”

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