The papal nuncio to the United Nations on Wednesday stressed the religious rejection of the “utter savagery” of terrorism and violence. “Genuine religious faith is in fact a source of unity and strength against fundamentalist terrorism and encourages individuals and societies to opt for non-violent means to air their grievances and to obtain justice,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza said Oct. 14 to a U.N. committee discussing anti-terrorism measures. “Pope Francis has called repeatedly on all religious communities and leaders never to use religion as a pretext for committing acts of violence.” Archbishop Auza is the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. He said the Holy See is concerned about the manipulation of religion to promote terrorist activities. He also praised international anti-terrorism efforts, including the U.N.’s adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. “The Holy See welcomes this cooperation as an expression of international solidarity to promote peace and security for all, especially for persons and groups who are under direct terrorist threats, such as those who promote fundamental human rights and those belonging to religious and ethnic minorities,” the archbishop said. “In the last year, we have witnessed a dramatic evolution of terrorist activities into forms of utter savagery never seen before, such as beheadings, crucifixions and the destruction of places of high historic and symbolic value, all transmitted live to the horror of us all, as well as by atrocities directed against entire communities and, indeed, against entire countries.” Archbishop Auza cited Pope Francis’ Sept. 25 speech to the United Nations. The Pope focused on the “painful situation” of the Middle East, North Africa, and other African countries where Christians and other cultural or ethnic groups “have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property.” The Pope lamented the extortion, expulsion, and enslavement these victims have suffered. “These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs,” Pope Francis said last month. Archbishop Auza advocated efforts to prevent the rise of terrorist sympathies. “We must dry up the swamps where terrorism breeds: by education and mutual respect, by perseverance in dialogue at all levels, by the rule of law and good governance, by engaging entire local communities most at risk of radicalization and achieving their satisfactory social integration, by creating job opportunities especially for the young who are susceptible to terrorist propaganda,” he said. The U.N. plays “a crucial role” in terrorism prevention efforts, the archbishop continued. “The Holy See is convinced that the fight against international and all forms of terrorism cannot be won solely by recourse to the most sophisticated weapons,” he said. He stressed the importance of diplomacy, peacekeeping, the rule of law, adherence to the U.N. charter and international law, and respect for fundamental human rights. “An arbitrary application of unilateral measures, a selective approach to human rights and a disregard for cultures and religions cannot win hearts and minds,” he continued. “Such actions come across as brazen demonstrations of superiority and deliberate acts of provocation, thereby increasing feelings of victimization among populations, especially among young people.” Archbishop Auza cited U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous “Four Freedoms” speech: freedoms of speech and worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear. “These are the fundamental freedoms that terrorists abhor. These are fundamental freedoms that we must uphold,” the archbishop said.
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