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Encounter and dialogue leads to peace nuncio to United Nations says

UNITED NATIONS (CNS): The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations (UN), Archbishop Bernardito Auza, called on the world to reaffirm its resolve to overcome violent extremism, terrorism, intolerance and religious hatred through encounter and dialogue.

Speaking during a May 6 programme on interfaith harmony at the headquarters of the UN in New York, Archbishop Auza, said that the example of Pope Francis—who has rooted his papacy in encountering others and dialogue—can serve as an example for the world.

He pointed to the principles the emerge from the pope’s presentations and meetings around the world, all meant to increase interreligious understanding and tolerance while promoting peace.

Firstly, the archbishop said Pope Francis has rejected violence in the name of religion. “All believers must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself,” he said.

Secondly, he continued, violence and terrorism must not be identified with any specific religion, race, nationality or culture. “No one religion or culture is violent by natureEvery religion and culture can be capable of violence,” he said.

Archbishop Auza also raised concerns about the role that mass media plays in “projecting, even implicitly, certain stereotypes of association between violence and a specific religion or culture.”

The third principle, the archbishop noted, is Pope Francis’ emphasis on the importance of education in respect for the dignity of every person and the associated rights related to freedom of religion, to free speech and the respect for women and girls, rights that violent extremists readily dismiss. 

“Education is essential in quelling prejudices and stereotyping, unwarranted fears and discrimination” to build mutual respect and peace, he explained.

Fourth, he continued, is the pope’s pursuit interreligious and intercultural dialogue, especially in communities torn apart by religious persecution, intolerance, interfaith tensions and social strife. 

Dialogue is “going out of ourselves, with a word, to hear the word of the other,” Archbishop Auza said, quoting Pope Francis.

“The two words meet, two thoughts meet. It is the first step of a journey. Following this meeting of the word, hearts meet and begin a dialogue of friendship, which ends with holding hands. Word, hearts, hands. It’s simple. A little child knows how to do it,” the archbishop said, continuing to quote the pope.

The Vatican diplomat also questioned the singular role of a primarily military response to extremism and intolerance, saying that dialogue, as Pope Francis repeatedly has shown, will lead to peace and security.

Archbishop Auza explained that the fifth of the pope’s principles is the need to eradicate the causes of violent extremism. He said young people are attracted to extremist ideologies “because they feel socially alienated and excluded or because of poverty or chronic unemployment.”

He called upon governments to work with nongovernment and local organisations to address the problems facing communities most at risk of “radicalisation and recruitment” in order to help marginalised members integrate into mainstream communities.

The final principle the archbishop noted, is the realization that “a harmonious society is never a result of a once-and-for-all effort, but rather is consolidated through thousands of daily actions that are the building blocks of just and peaceful societies.”

Archbishop Auza concluded, “Pope Francis challenges us to turn places of hatred and conflict into healing and reconciliation; places of death and destruction into places of new life and new beginnings leading to a society where a culture of peace and harmonious co-existence becomes a concrete way of life, the norm rather than the exception.” 

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