01/07/2008, 00.00
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The world’s security and stability “are still fragile," says the Pope

In his speech to the diplomatic corps Benedict XVI expresses great concern for the Asian continent, from the Middle East to Myanmar, from Pakistan to Sri Lanka. Peace requires respect for human freedom and human rights which are based on natural law, starting with the right to life and to religious freedom. He expresses hope that the moratorium on the death penalty might “lead to [a] public debate on the sacred character of human life.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The world’s security and stability “are still fragile,” this according to Benedict XVI. Speaking this morning in the Apostolic Palace’s Sala Regia the Holy Father addressed the envoys of the 176 countries accredited at the Holy See. In his speech he talked about the current situation of the world during the traditional meeting with the diplomatic corps.

The many difficult if not tragic situations Benedict XVI referred to require in his opinion awareness that nations have a shared responsibility towards human liberty and human rights. The latter can be protected by means of dialogue which in turn demands respect for natural law, “given by the Creator.” Hence “peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change.”

Asia’s tragedies

The Pope looked closely at the world’s situation and many Asian nations were among those that particularly concerned.

The international community,” he said, “continues to be deeply concerned about the Middle East. I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favour of a global approach respectful of the rights and legitimate interests of all the peoples of the region. I appeal once more to the Israelis and the Palestinians to concentrate their energies on the implementation of commitments made on that occasion, and to expedite the process that has happily been restarted. Moreover, I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears.

And “who,” he added, “can remain unmoved by the plight of Lebanon, amid its trials and all the violence that continues to shake that beloved country? It is my earnest wish that the Lebanese people will be able to decide freely on their future and I ask the Lord to enlighten them, beginning with the leaders of public life, so that, putting aside particular interests, they will be ready to pledge themselves to the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Only in this way will the country be able to progress in stability and to become once more an example of the peaceful coexistence of different communities. In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed! At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern; it is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities. Important humanitarian aid is necessary for the peoples affected by the war; I am thinking especially of displaced persons within the country and refugees who have fled abroad, among whom there are many Christians. I invite the international community to be generous towards them and towards their host countries, whose capacities to absorb them have been sorely tested.”

I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family.”

Turning our gaze now towards the whole of Asia, I should like to draw your attention to some other crisis situations, first of all to Pakistan, which has suffered from serious violence in recent months. I hope that all political and social forces will commit themselves to building a peaceful society, respectful of the rights of all. In Afghanistan, in addition to violence, there are other serious social problems, such as the production of drugs; greater support should be given to efforts for development, and even more intensive work is required in order to build a serene future. In Sri Lanka it is no longer possible to postpone further the decisive efforts needed to remedy the immense sufferings caused by the continuing conflict. And I ask the Lord to grant that in Myanmar, with the support of the international community, a season of dialogue between the Government and the opposition will begin, ensuring true respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Naturally Asia is not the only cause of concern for the Pope. So are Africa—from Darfur to the Great Lakes, from Kenya to Somalia—and the Americas, from Cuba to Peru, as well as Europe itself with Kosovo and the hope that the march towards the “European House” may continue.

Protecting life and religious freedom

Man’s liberty in its highest form is in any case at risk as are the freedom from the bonds and suffering imposed by an unequal and unjust development. Hence for Benedict XVI the international community must become aware of and support those initiatives that favour intercultural and inter-faith dialogue.

These ever increasing initiatives,” he noted, “can foster cooperation on matters of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the search for the common good, peace-building and development.” As part of these he stressed the letter that was sent to me by 138 Muslim religious leaders.

But in Benedict XVI’s address the reflection on the protection of human rights cannot ignore two fundamental issues, namely the right to life, which is “under continual attacks [. . .] on every continent,” and religious freedom as “an essential requirement of the dignity of every person [and] a cornerstone of the structure of human rights.”

In the first case, the Pope welcomed the decision “on 18 December last [by] the General Assembly of the United Nations” to adopt “a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.” For this reason he said he earnestly hoped “that this initiative will lead to [a] public debate on the sacred character of human life.”

As for religious freedom, he noted that there “are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised.” And for this reason the “Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.

International commitment to security

Finally, the Pope called on the international community to “make a global commitment on security.” In his view, a “joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective.”

By the same token, he explicitly referred to “the agreement reached on the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme” and encouraged “the adoption of suitable measures for the reduction of conventional weapons and for dealing with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.”

In expressing his New Year Wishes to the ambassadors and the peoples they represent, the Pope stressed that the “Church is profoundly convinced that humanity is a family,” something that he had already stated in this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace.

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