THE Holy See says extreme poverty is more than a socio-economic problem; it is also an ethical one, flowing from a globalisation of indifference exacerbated by consumerism.
According to the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher’s address to the just ended UN General Assembly debates on Monday, an ethical approach to the current crisis must also inspire solidarity with future generations.
He said for the Holy See, development must always be integral, which means it cannot be restricted to economic growth alone.
Archbishop Gallangher said authentic development must be well rounded; that it must foster the development of each person and of the whole person.
“Respect for human rights and human dignity, based on a profound appreciation of the whole person and every person is essential to eradicate extreme poverty and to promote integral human development. Without paying attention to these fundamental anthropological coordinates, the sustainable development agenda would be reduced to its economic, environmental, or sociological elements,” he said.” Extreme poverty is more than a socio-economic problem; it is also an ethical one, flowing from a globalisation of indifference exacerbated by consumerism. The alternative to that individualistic, indifferent and self-centred approach is an interpersonal one that involves personal, social, economic and environmental advancement and solidarity. This principle of interconnectedness is found in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”
Archbishop Gallagher said in adopting those documents, nations committed themselves to promote integral and authentic development in harmony with nature.
“We should put all our efforts into achieving the SDGs and the demanding goals of the Paris Agreement,” he said.
Archbishop Gallagher said by 2015, 30 per cent of people worldwide still did not have access to safe drinking water, while 60 per cent did not have access to adequate sanitation.
“After a prolonged decline, world hunger has been rising again. The recent 2018 High Level Political Forum showed that there is an urgent need to step up efforts with regard to energy, water and ecosystems. Moreover, the recent rise in trade tensions and a growing skepticism of multilateralism endanger the coordinated global effort to sustainable development for all,” he said. “While care for our common home benefits us, it is also a gift to future generations, sparing them from paying the price of environmental deterioration and ensuring that they are able to enjoy its beauty, wonder, and manifold endowment.”
And Archbishop Gallagher said the Holy See remained concerned about the ongoing political tensions and instability in Nicaragua and Venezuela, especially with regard to the humanitarian crisis in the latter.
He said there was a need to promote a genuine public awareness of certain ongoing situations of conflict with a view to reaching a negotiated and peaceful solution, especially in Ukraine, Libya and the Central African Republic, among others. Archbishop Gallagher said the Holy See considered the recent political developments in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as positive signs toward building peaceful and democratic societies based on the firm hope that agreements reached will be mutually respected.
“War and armed conflict can only be prevented by promoting and protecting the dignity of every human life and by fostering a culture of peace animated by sincere mutual respect, dialogue and solidarity,” he said. “The tragedy of the First World War, whose end a hundred years ago we will mark in November, teaches us that victory must not mean humiliating a defeated foe, and that peace can only be achieved when nations can discuss matters on equal terms. A culture of peace implies fighting injustice and rooting out, in a non-violent way, the causes of discord that lead to wars.”
Archbishop Gallagher said the pursuit of peace required renouncing violence to vindicate one’s rights, since countering violence with violence led to more death and destruction, deeper resentment and hatred lasting for decades, atrocities and forced mass migrations and the diversion of vast amounts of resources from development to military ends.
“Fostering a culture of peace likewise entails intensifying our efforts toward disarmament and disowning the use of force in the conduct of international affairs. Every effort in this direction, however modest, helps to build a culture of peace,” Archbishop Gallagher said. “The Holy See underlines the deep bonds between the promotion of the culture of peace and the strengthening of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. The proliferation of weapons in fact aggravates conflicts and generates vast human and material costs hindering human and economic development and the search for lasting peace.
He said peace required forgiveness, which was central to reconciliation and peace-building, since it made possible the healing and rebuilding of human relations.
“Forgiveness is not opposed to justice but it is rather its fulfillment, since it leads to the healing of the wounds that fester in human hearts while acknowledging the evil that has been committed,” he said. “A culture of peace involves therefore the courageous choice of not allowing the wounds of the past to bleed into the present so that we can walk together towards reconciliation.”
Archbishop Gallagher also said while history books sing the victories of emperors and warriors, all of civilization owes an unpayable debt of gratitude to the less chronicled or even unknown contributions of women and men that have shaped civilizations.
“While textbooks normally obsess about the names at the top of political hierarchies and are preoccupied fundamentally with economic and military trends, it is worth recalling that genuine human progress happens more fundamentally in the relations human beings have with one another and the way human beings care for one another,” he said. “Today, women and men are at the forefront of the revolution of tenderness that Pope Francis has insisted the world urgently needs…. Beyond their professional competence and technical knowledge, women have, indeed, shown a special capacity for recognising, affirming, nurturing and defending the inherent dignity of others, and to contribute greatly in the efforts to promote a peaceful, respectful and harmonious world.”
Archbishop Gallagher said the Holy See noted with great concern that women’s indispensable role was often undervalued and “can even be a vehicle for the exploitation and violation of their dignity and fundamental rights.”
He said women faced a variety of challenges and difficulties in various parts of the world.
“They experience discrimination in the workplace; they are often forced to choose between work and family; they disproportionately suffer in conflict situations,” Archbishop Gallagher said. “In poor and developing countries, women bear the heaviest burdens: it is they who travel many miles in search of water, who too often do not have access even to the most basic medical assistance that they need in childbirth, who are kidnapped for sexual exploitation or forced into marriage. At times, they are even denied the right to life simply for being female.”
Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, Archbishop Gallagher said the recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings was the bedrock on which the pillars of the United Nations were grounded.
“To speak of human dignity seventy years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration means, above all, to restate the centrality and intrinsic worth of the human person and to reaffirm the inherent rights shared by all men and women, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, strong or vulnerable, healthy or sick, wanted or undesired, economically productive or incapacitated, politically influential or insignificant,” he said. “The world, in fact, needs to regain an all-encompassing vision of the human person, human dignity and human rights, since any reductive vision of the human person inevitably dehumanizes and effectively excludes certain persons from membership of the human race, opening the way to inequality, injustice, and injury.”
Archbishop Gallagher said it was scandalous to see that human rights continued to be violated today seven decades after the adoption of the Universal Declaration.
“The Holy See is especially concerned about the increasingly narrow interpretation of the right to life, both on the national level and at the level of the treaty bodies and other human rights mechanisms,” said Archbishop Gallagher. “That tendency is particularly apparent within a current of the human rights discourse that refuses to recognize the inherent value and dignity of human life at every stage of its beginning, development and end. That approach seeks to create a hierarchy of human rights, by relativizing human dignity, assigning more value and even rights to the strong and healthy, while discarding the weak. That ideology, unfortunately present in various parts of the UN human rights system, leads to some grave inequalities and injustices, often ignoring children in the womb and treating the lives of the elderly and persons with disabilities, as expendable or indeed as a burden to society. While freedom is crucial to the ability of every person to express one’s unique identity, the reduction of a person’s dignity to his or her capacity for self-expression and affirmation is always a grave error and a sign that society is losing its ability to recognize the value and importance of every human life, no matter how vulnerable.”