(Vatican Radio) The Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, addressed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday.
Foreign ministers from 57 member states and 11 partner states attended the 23rd Ministerial Council of the OSCE to discuss the fight against terrorism and the war in Syria, as well as disarmament and human rights abuses.
Archbishop Gallagher said, “Sadly, peace, security and justice cannot be said to be a reality for every man and woman in the OSCE region. Far too many of our fellow men and women are victims of past and present wars, of conflict, strife and terrorism, and know too well of their horror and consequences.”
He also called on European states to welcome the “exceptional migration flow of people” fleeing war and economic hardships.
“While understanding the need to reflect carefully on how best to address carefully large flows of migrants and refugees, the Holy See wishes to note the repeated appeals addressed by Pope Francis to world leaders on behalf of so many of our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee in search of a safe, secure and decent life. These persons should not be treated solely as a threat to national stability and security, and thus left to the exploitation of unscrupulous people or treated as mere commodities, without any real concern for their rights and needs.”
Please find below the full text of Archbishop Gallagher’s address:
8 – 9 December 2016
I would like to begin by presenting to this Ministerial Council my greetings and best wishes. I also wish to express the gratitude of the Holy See to the Chairman-in-Office, His Excellency Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as to the entire 2016 German OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, for its efforts during the course of this year and its generous hospitality during these days in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
In the Helsinki Final Act, which must rightly be hailed as one of the last century’s greatest diplomatic achievements, the participating States reaffirmed “their commitment to peace, security and justice and the continuing development of friendly relations and co-operation”.
Sadly, peace, security and justice cannot be said to be a reality for every man and woman in the OSCE region. Far too many of our fellow men and women are victims of past and present wars, of conflict, strife and terrorism, and know too well of their horror and consequences. It is also the case that many, including many of the next generation, look to the future with fear in their hearts. Pope Francis has repeatedly summed up the violence that is spreading around the world in the expression “a Third World War fought piecemeal, in chapters, everywhere”.
As the initial commitment of the Helsinki Final Act, both then and now, reflects the desire of all men and women for peace, security and justice, we must answer their longing with vigorous and renewed endeavours, so aptly summarised by the motto “Renewing dialogue, rebuilding trust, restoring security” chosen by the German Chairmanship for the OSCE in 2016.
The Holy See hopes that a true and renewed spirit of engagement, which is always possible, can promote progress in implementing the agreements, while restoring trust and confidence between and among the participating States. This has been the goal of the process launched more than 40 years ago with the Helsinki Final Act, and it should be the goal of our efforts today, and tomorrow.
The Holy See believes that building and consolidating peace is not a mere wish, but a serious and urgent commitment, in fact, a moral obligation. This sacred obligation and responsibility is incumbent on all men and women of the world, and especially on governments and international organizations. We are certain that peace is the fruit of an order inscribed into human society by the Creator. We do not have the right to violate this order, but, on the contrary, we have the moral obligation to respect and consolidate it with all our strength.
Regrettably, several unresolved conflicts continue to traumatize various parts of the OSCE region. Along with the loss of human lives and with vast humanitarian crises, these conflicts risk diminishing confidence in law and order, as well as in the effectiveness of diplomacy and dialogue. Unfortunately, we cannot but note that, in some situations, even the Special Missions of the OSCE do not have the capacity to maintain ceasefires or to ensure the implementation of the agreements reached by common consent, as is the case with the conflict in Ukraine and also the so-called “frozen conflicts” in other regions. But even in such situations, it is crucial to continue the efforts for both the immediate objective of implementing or maintaining the ceasefire, and the long-term goal of reinforcing the conditions conducive the respect of international law and order. [Dimensions]
Due to its unrelenting promotion of a world free of war and conflict, the Holy See will – as we have stated before – support any and all initiatives that seek to advance the cause of peace, co-operation and stability, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, and most certainly so when such initiatives strive to bring to an end the grave conflicts that sadly continue to plague our region. This principle applies to the three dimensions of the OSCE and their activities, and I take this opportunity to touch briefly on some specific concerns regarding these three dimensions:
As for the security dimension, the Holy See is convinced that there is room for greater involvement of women, especially in conflict-prevention and resolution.
I would also like to highlight the constructive and important role that religions can play, especially with a view to the prevention of war, and the reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of post-conflict societies. A good example is the Message of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, dated 18 November 1965, which was so important for the post-war history of Poland and Germany, and constituted a significant contribution of the Catholic Church towards reconciliation between the Polish and German peoples. Another example, this time from our own day, is the significant contribution of the Catholic Church and of Pope Francis personally to the facilitation of dialogue, in various countries in Africa and Latin America, which has already produced some promising results. This role has proven most valuable . In this regard, the Holy See considers it necessary to highlight its concern about the widespread and false idea that religions are only a negative factor in society. Religions, in fact, can be harnessed as an innate positive force given the contribution that believers strive to bring to their communities and societies. It is important that participating States create an atmosphere of respect for and appreciation of religions and beliefs, allowing religious and faith communities to engage in full and fruitful dialogue among themselves and with States.
In the economic and environmental dimension, the Holy See would like to draw attention to the words of Pope Francis, who has pointed out that “experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration”. Economic and social exclusion is not only a denial of human dignity that undermines social cohesion, but too often it is a trigger of conflict and violence inside societies and beyond. Among the weaknesses of the democratic system, corruption is one of the most serious because it betrays at one and the same time both the moral principles and the norms of social justice. Where corruption is present it is the poorest who suffer most from such offences and they are reduced to becoming victims of today’s widespread and quietly growing “throw-away culture”. Within this perspective, the Holy See welcomes efforts to build consensus on the MC Decision on strengthening good governance and promoting connectivity, which would be a most useful tool in addressing wider aspects of economic and social exclusion.
Since the very beginning of the OSCE, the Holy See has always insisted – and continues to insist – on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion, as an essential factor for peace, justice and welfare. The Holy See advocates respect for and the advancement of human rights and fundamental freedoms for two reasons: firstly, human rights and fundamental freedoms are founded in the inherent dignity of the human person, a dignity that no-one may take away, ignore or refuse to respect; secondly, as the Holy See repeatedly affirms, security, safety and peace are not the result of restricting human rights, but rather of their enjoyment by all.
Therefore, we note with profound concern that in the entire OSCE area – both East and West of Vienna – many persons and communities continue to be subject to threats or acts of hostility or violence as a result of their racial, ethnic or religious identity. Another issue of serious concern is the continued presence of hate crimes and incidents in the OSCE region, a worrying reality that must be combated – starting with the careful and full implementation of existing commitments, avoiding any improper selectivity or hierarchical approach. The Holy See is also fully aware of, and deplores, the numerous acts of intolerance and discrimination occurring in the OSCE area, based on other grounds, for example the inequality and discrimination suffered by women. It should be recalled here that the Holy See has repeatedly and decisively condemned violence against people and every sign of unjust discrimination.
Cross dimensional issues
Solemn commitments are not enough, although they are certainly a necessary step forward. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant. Concrete steps and immediate measures are needed to bring to an end the baneful consequences of social and economic exclusion: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism. We need, instead, to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.
Finally, I would draw the attention of this Ministerial Council to the exceptional migration flow of people fleeing from different neighbouring areas and through the OSCE Region, people who were generously welcomed by your government, Minister Steinmeier. These movements are the consequence of social and economic inequalities, violent conflicts, environmental and natural disasters, as well as religious and ethnic persecutions.
While understanding the need to reflect carefully on how best to address carefully large flows of migrants and refugees, the Holy See wishes to note the repeated appeals addressed by Pope Francis to world leaders on behalf of so many of our brothers and sisters who are forced to flee in search of a safe, secure and decent life. These persons should not be treated solely as a threat to national stability and security, and thus left to the exploitation of unscrupulous people or treated as mere commodities, without any real concern for their rights and needs.
Furthermore, the considerable and positive contribution of migrants to the receiving countries must be recognized and affirmed. Their work represents a solution for the demographic problem of ageing host populations. They contribute by building bridges among cultures and fostering the well-being and the development of their countries of origin. Their positive contribution is most evident when they truly become integrated into their new host society, and all parties become aware that a better future may be built together. For this reason, dialogue and mutual acceptance represent indispensable elements for successful integration. Through the adoption of a human rights based approach, migrants become agents of cultural and economic development.
In conclusion, I wish to renew to the German Chairmanship my gratitude for its leadership and efforts exercised during this year and to wish the incoming Austrian Chairmanship every success and assure it of the cooperation and support of the Holy See.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.