Address by H.E. Archbishop Dominique Mamberti
Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States
62nd session of the UN General Assembly
High-level Dialogue on Interreligious and
Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace
New York, 5 October 2007
Three times in
the last two decades, leaders of the world’s religions gathered at the
invitation of the late Pope John Paul II in Assisi, the City of Saint Francis, a
person recognized by many as a symbol of reconciliation and brotherhood. There
they prayed and offered a common witness for peace. In 1986, they reflected on
the roots of peace in the common origin and destiny of humankind. In 1993, they
stressed, in particular, that violence in the name of religion is an offence
against God. In January 2002, following 9/11, they reaffirmed that violence and
terrorism are incompatible with authentic religion. In the recent words of Pope
Benedict XVI, Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one’s own religious
convictions is not expressed in violence and intolerance, but in sincere respect
for others, in dialogue and in an announcement that appeals to freedom and
reason while remaining committed to peace and reconciliation.
Religion as a
factor of peace
fact, is essentially a herald of peace.
The use of violence cannot be attributed to religion as such, but to the
cultural limitations in which religions are lived and develop in time. For
instance, it is well known that, in recent history, political leaders have
sometimes manipulated religious identity and that some nationalist movements
have utilized religious differences to garner support for their causes. Religion
has also been used as a vehicle for violent protest where states have failed to
provide development and justice for their people and have blocked other channels
However, historic traditions of spiritual discernment, asceticism and service
contribute to directing religious fervour away from violence and toward the good
of the larger society. Theological reflection submits to critique views tending
towards extremism. Philosophical questioning and historical scholarship help
religion to deepen its search for truth and show its reasonableness, thus
facilitating dialogue and consolidating the impact of religion on peacebuilding
and on society as a whole.
There cannot be
peace without understanding and cooperation among religions. There cannot be
understanding and cooperation among religions without religious liberty.
and promotion of religious liberty for all requires both state action and
The role of
International Organizations are called to adhere to and enforce the principles
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and allied international
instruments, such as The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of
Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.
The full exercise
of the right to religious freedom is based on respect for human reason and its
capacity to know the truth; it ensures openness to transcendence as an
indispensable guarantee of human dignity; it allows all religions to manifest
their own identity publicly, free from any pressure to hide or disguise it.
Religious freedom includes the right to disseminate one’s own faith and the
right to change it. Respect for religious liberty would unmask the pretense of
some terrorists to justify their unjustifiable actions on religious grounds.
If violence still
arises between religious groups, anti-incitement programmes in civil society
should be supported, especially when they are initiated by local groups in
cross-religious alliances. Anti-incitement activities include education,
mobilization of religious leaders, mass movements opposing hate speech and other
public acts calculated to spur sectarian violence.
minorities do not pretend special protection or status, as long as their right
to religious freedom is fully guaranteed and they are not discriminated against
on religious grounds. In fact, they should enjoy the same civil rights as the
general population and members of the majority religion, e.g., for the
construction and repair of places of worship.
high-level international gatherings of religious leaders aimed at praying for
and promoting peace should be replicated at national and local levels. Indeed,
prayer and good intentions are authentic only if they translate into practical
gestures at all levels.
If religions want
to build peace, they must teach forgiveness. In fact, there is no peace without
justice, and there is no justice without forgiveness.
communities can also make a positive contribution to peace by educating their
own members in their teachings on peace and solidarity.
The promotion of
interreligious programmes focused on development cooperation can also foster
dialogue and make significant contributions to peacemaking in societies
afflicted by conflict, working with local groups in anti-incitement, peace and
nonviolence education, conflict transformation and negotiation.
At a time when
the so-called clash of civilizations is gaining currency in some quarters,
religions have a special role to play in blazing new paths to peace, in union
with one another and in cooperation with states and international organizations.
To empower religions to fully assume this role, all of us must work together to
ensure that religious freedom is recognized, safeguarded and fostered by all and
everywhere. If this High-Level Dialogue is to bear fruit, our message today must
get out of the confines of this hall to reach and touch each and every person
and community of believers throughout the world.
Thank you, Mr