At the start of a new year, the Pope dedicated his speech to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its adoption by the UN General Assembly in December.
In his extensive speech Pope Francis defends the fundamental right humanity has to life itself.
Because everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal security, nations must find nonviolent solutions to conflict and difficulties, Pope Francis said.A culture of peace “calls for unremitting efforts in favour of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in the handling of international affairs,” he said on January 8 in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.
Given the urgent need to favour dialogue and diplomacy in conflict resolution and to end the stockpiling of weapons, “I would therefore like to encourage a serene and wide-ranging debate on the subject, one that avoids polarizing the international community on such a sensitive issue,” the Pope said.
The declaration was an attempt to help the world’s nations base their relations on “truth, justice, willing cooperation and freedom” by upholding the fundamental rights of all human beings, he said.
The very foundation of freedom, justice and world peace, he said, quoting the document, is built on recognising and respecting.
Pope Francis cautioned that there has been a movement to create “new rights” that often not only conflict with each other, but can be at odds with the traditional values and cultures of many countries, while neglecting the real needs they have to face.
“Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable,” he said.
Seven decades after the creation of the universal declaration, Pope Francis said, “it is painful to see how many fundamental rights continue to be violated today. First among all of these is the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security.
”War, violence and abortion all infringe on these rights, he said.
Not only are innocent unborn children discarded because they are “ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults,” the elderly are often cast aside especially when they are infirm, he said.
Ultimately, the right to life entails working for peace, he said, because “without peace, integral human development becomes unattainable.”
The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year shows how the desire for peace continues to be alive in the world, he said.
“The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced” and “nuclear weapons must be banned.
In this regard, it is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world,” Pope Francis said.
Fostering dialogue is also of primary importance for Israelis and Palestinians “in the wake of the tensions of recent weeks,” he said, apparently referring to demonstrations that took place after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Pope Francis had said such a move would further destabilize the Middle East.
In his speech to diplomats, the Pope repeated the Vatican’s longstanding position that any policy change in the Holy Land must “be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities” and should respect the “the status quo of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.”
“There is a need, then, to promote the legal, political and security conditions” for each citizen and to protect all religious minorities, including Christians, he said.
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and of religion, including the freedom to change religion,” must be upheld around the globe, the Pope said.
Instead, “it is well-known that the right to religious freedom is often disregarded, and not infrequently religion becomes either an occasion for the ideological justification of new forms of extremism or a pretext for the social marginalization of believers, if not their downright persecution,” he said.
The Pope also warned against talking about migrants and migration “only for the sake of stirring up primal fears.”
The movements of peoples have always existed and the freedom of movement — to leave one’s homeland and to return — is a fundamental human right, he said.
“There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above all, with persons,” he said.
Another urgent task before humanity, the Pope said, is caring for the earth.
“One must not downplay the importance of our own responsibility in interaction with nature. Climate changes, with the global rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of human activity,” he said.
Therefore, people must work together, he said, including by upholding commitments agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Accord, and leave “to coming generations a more beautiful and livable world,” he said.
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