What the Holy See has to say about conflict in the Middle East

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St. Peter's Basilica at the Vigil of Divine Mercy, April 2, 2016. Credit: Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA.

If peace is to be achieved in the Middle East, it will be a joint effort, requiring the cooperation of political authorizes, religious leaders and civilians, said the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations.

“The Holy See believes that peace processes do not depend solely on formal negotiations, no matter how indispensable these may be,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N.

With its rich cultural, religious and intellectual history, the Middle East has the resources to be a fertile ground for civil society and diplomacy, he said.

This includes faith-based “informal diplomacy,” he said, which must play a part “in promoting the values of encounter and mutual acceptance, thereby equipping all citizens to become active protagonists in peacemaking and peacebuilding in the region.”

The archbishop spoke July 12, delivering remarks during the U.N. Security Council’s discussion on the situation in the Middle East.

“Religions and believers, in particular, must prove themselves worthy of their rightful place in the whole process of pacification in the region,” he said. “They must put an end to any form of mutual hatred that could lend credence to a ‘clash of civilizations’.”

Archbishop Auza stressed that “the more religion is manipulated to justify acts of terror and violence, the more religious leaders must be engaged in the overall effort to defeat the violence that attempts to hijack it for purposes antithetical to its nature.”

“Spurious religious fervour must be countered by authentic religious instruction and by the example of true communities of faith. It is only then that faith-based ‘informal diplomacy’ can fruitfully compliment the formal diplomacy of States and multilateral bodies.”

Focusing his attention on Syria and the “unspeakable suffering” of its people, the archbishop highlighted “the continued persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minority groups by non-State actors in parts of Syria and Iraq.”

He noted Pope Francis’ strong denunciation of all those participating in “the senseless slaughter of civilians,” on whatever side of the conflict.
 
“The Pope also denounces those who supply substantial amounts of money and weaponry to the fighters who kill and maim the innocent population and destroy civilian institutions and infrastructure,” he said. “One cannot but lament the duplicity of simultaneously talking peace while supplying arms to those who kill, on every side of the conflict.”
 
Archbishop Auza asked the international community to end the illegal supply of weapons to non-state actors, who have committed crimes against humanity and other atrocities. He raised ethical and legal questions about technologically advanced weapons, including remote-controlled assassinations that lack due process of law and cause collateral damage to civilians.

The archbishop also commented on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, reiterating the Holy See’s support for a two-State solution as the best available option.

“Durable peace will remain a distant dream and security will remain an illusion if Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders,” he said. “Let the two States be created now, for the sake of the Israelis and Palestinians who, in the depths of their hearts, desire nothing greater than peace and security.”
 

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