Terrorism in the name of religion is a lie, the head of the Holy See’s mission to the United Nations said last week.
“In the Middle East, in particular, terrorists must never be allowed to destroy centuries of peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Christians in the region,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza said at the United Nations April 14.
The archbishop, who is the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations, spoke in the U.N. Security Council’s open debate on threats to international peace and security.
Archbishop Auza said terrorist groups which claim to kill in the name of religion show “mendacity and blasphemy” that must be denounced “in the strongest possible terms.” Religious leaders particularly have a grave responsibility to condemn those who seek to instrumentalize religion for violent and oppressive ends, he said.
“No one of whatever religion or culture must ever be allowed to carry out acts of violence and oppression in the name of that religion or culture or under whatever pretext,” he added.
Terrorism represents “a fundamental threat to our common humanity,” the archbishop continued. The fight against it requires “a shared commitment from all nations and people of good will.”
Archbishop Auza noted terrorism’s trans-national character. He cited the 30,000 foreign fighters from 100 U.N. member states who have entered Islamic State-controlled territory.
“Once trained and completely indoctrinated in the most warped and violent ideologies, they travel to sow terror in other countries,” he said.
The archbishop also reflected on how to counter terrorism.
“Any lasting solution to defeat violent extremism and fundamentalist terror must consider the centrality of the inviolable dignity and rights of the human person, regardless of race, religion, political belief and difference,” he said. “Too many individual citizens and groups have suffered and continue to suffer death and all forms of violence and discrimination because of their religion, ethnicity or political beliefs.”
Only a collective international response can counter international terrorism, Archbishop Auza said, stressing that more than military coercion is needed. He praised a “culture of encounter and dialogue that breeds mutual acceptance and promotes inclusive societies.”
“This is the only way to lasting peace and security,” he said.
He advocated a response to the “root causes” of terrorism, including youth who are disillusioned and feel excluded.
“Together with the legal tools and resources to prevent citizens from becoming foreign terrorist fighters, governments should engage with civil society to address the problems of communities most at risk of radicalization and recruitment and to achieve their satisfactory social integration,” he said.
The archbishop called for action to end internet recruitment of new adherents to terrorist groups. He also called for an end to internet funding for these groups and asked the Security Council for harsh penalties against arms suppliers.
“Collaboration with terror groups, whether for profit or for ideological complicity, must be outlawed. Member states that abet violent extremism or shelter terror groups must be rigorously challenged by this Council,” he said.