Vatican diplomat calls on U.N. to pursue peace in world's trouble spots

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy State Department


NATIONS (CNS) — A Vatican official called on the world’s governments to strive more
actively to prevent wars, protect human dignity and the environment and
work toward a nuclear-free world.

During an address to the United Nations
General Assembly Sept. 25, Archbishop
Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, also described the right
to life and freedom of religion as pillars of peace and development, allowing human
rights to flow from them.

addressed the drug trade, trafficking in persons and the importance of
protecting innocent people from violence and war in his wide-ranging speech
that echoed numerous concerns raised by Pope Francis during his pontificate.

people always first means protecting, at every stage and in every circumstance,
the dignity of the person and its human rights and fundamental freedoms,”
Archbishop Gallagher said. He called such protections “the common
foundation of peace and security and integral human development.”

two human rights are indivisible from those other rights and fundamental
freedoms relating to a dignified spiritual, material and intellectual life for
each citizen and for their families, among others, the right to food, the right
to water, the right for housing, the right to safe environment and the right to
work,” he said.

the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris agreement on
climate change two signs of hope for the world, Archbishop Gallagher also urged
the world’s governments to do more to implement the legal and political commitments
contained in them.

the agreements, he said, “could be a way of focusing all countries and
international organizations on working together for peace, leaving aside the
dangerous game of exchanging threats.”

All nations have a duty to prevent war and violent conflicts that harm innocent
civilians, the archbishop continued. He said the prevention of violence
requires faith that negotiations to ease tensions can be fruitful.

environment of trust is urgently needed. All countries should take a decisive
and urgent step back from the present escalation of military preparations. The
largest countries and those who have a stronger tradition of respecting human
rights should be the first to perform generous actions of pacification. All the
diplomatic and political means of mediation should be engaged to avoid the
unspeakable,” Archbishop Gallagher stressed.

called for a renewed emphasis by all governments on the importance of
protecting populations from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity.”

The war
in Yemen is of particular concern and the “tragedy from the war in Syria
continues to grow every day,” the archbishop said. He also said political
divisions and instability in Venezuela as well as tensions in the Arabian
Peninsula, the Middle East, Ukraine, South Sudan and Central African Republic
pose threats to the well-being of citizens in those countries in calling on the
world to seek peaceful alternatives to war and violence.

common humanity impels us all, as Pope Francis has proposed, to welcome, to
protect, to promote and to integrate those who flee from such adverse
conditions,” Archbishop Gallagher told the General Assembly delegates.
“These four actions are based on the proposition that migrants, in spite
of many real or imagined challenges, are a good for society, and on the principle
of solidarity with those in need.”

He said
the Holy See will work to ensure that the four actions will be included in the
global compact for refugees the U.N. will consider in September 2018.

Gallagher cited the need to more fully address the “evil” of human
trafficking and the heinous nature of the drug trade in many countries around
the world.

trafficking involves “the utter loss of respect for human dignity and the
total indifference to the sufferings of fellow human beings. Modern slavery
happens when ‘people are treated like objects,’ he explained. The archbishop called
for a stronger focus on efforts to end human trafficking, saying “putting
people first” ought to be the primary concern of the U.N.

addition, Archbishop Gallagher called for an end to the arms trade — licit and
illicit — around the world. “The proliferation of arms, including weapons
of mass destruction, among terrorist groups and other nonstate actors has
become a real danger,” he said.

He did
not leave nuclear powers untouched, saying that these countries must lead the effort
toward disarmament, including nuclear disarmament, and arms control.

proliferation of weapons simply aggravates situations of conflict and results in
unimaginable human suffering and material costs, profoundly undermining
development, human rights and the search for lasting peace,” the diplomat
said. “Without greater international and regional cooperation, especially
among weapons-producing states, to control and limit strictly the production
and movement of weapons, a world free of wars and violent conflicts will surely
remain an illusion.”

Gallagher noted that the Holy See has signed the
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons approved by the U.N. in July. He
said that while much remains to be done for the treaty to take effect,
“the Holy See believes that it is one more blow on the anvil toward the
fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘They shall beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the
sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.'”

The following day, Archbishop Gallagher met with U.S. Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson in Washington.

During a photo opportunity, Tillerson was asked about U.S. relations with North Korea.

“We’re going to continue to pursue our diplomatic efforts and hope that’s the way we’ll solve this,” Tillerson replied.

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