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Holy See Address at U.N. Peace Service

2/8/2007 - 7:00 AM PST

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"No Surrender to the Culture of Conflict"

GENEVA, FEB. 8, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the address given Jan. 30 by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations at Geneva, at the Interreligious Service for Peace.

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1. From different religious and cultural backgrounds, with our different histories, we come together this evening to affirm that peace is a gift to be welcomed and a task to be pursued. There is no surrender to the culture of conflict; no acceptance that clashes are unavoidable and that war is ever natural. Such confidence comes from a vision of peace that is deeply rooted in the core values and insights shared by all faith traditions that God our Creator has endowed each person with an inalienable dignity and thus given us equality of rights and duties and established and unbreakable solidarity among all women and men.

2. I am honored to welcome you at this by now traditional occasion for a moment of prayer and reflection on peace inspired by the annual Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has centered this year on the theme: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace. The daily concerns of the representatives of countries of the world and of international organizations as well as of the authorities of Geneva and of civil society organizations -- all most welcome -- is the search for a better way of living together and respond to the natural desire of the human family for peace.

3. But we are not naive. The phenomenon of violence has become increasingly complex in the 21st century and it poses unprecedented challenges to the international community. The work for peace implies now closing the gap between the rich and the poor; putting an end to civil wars, to terrorism, and all armed conflicts; stopping a revived arms race and the proliferation of a variety of weapons; rejecting the glorification of violence in the media.

Millions of people are affected by current wars and civilians are targeted with total disregard of humanitarian law. These victims and the millions of forcibly displaced persons call for peace, for respect of their human dignity. It is a difficult moment but we know "there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples."

4. The search for peace begins in the heart of every individual and move forward to countries and to the international community, an orderly process founded on the respect of the person, the right to life and religious freedom, the free exercise of basic human rights, the elimination of unjust inequalities. So the question emerges of how we can bring healing to the world, of how we can go beyond mere tolerance and reach out to others on the base of respect and justice. The need to move beyond tolerance resides in the fact that this is a kind of passive acceptance of others imposed by law, a first step for sure but without personal involvement.

It has been observed that a civilization of tolerance is built on a minefield: When attention lowers, the mines explode. Respect instead looks at others as partners in the same humanity, children of the same creator, with the same aspirations for a happy and peaceful life, even though the way may be different. Effective dialogue and negotiations for peace rest on the two pillars of respect and justice, the justice of daily practical relationships that tests the sincerity of our words and agreements. The process that goes from tolerance to respect and justice reaches its perfection when it discovers "that the highest vocation of every person is love." In this realization, "we can find the ultimate reason for becoming staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace."

5. Aramin, a former fighter, active member of Combatants for Peace, a group of former Palestinian militants and former Israeli soldiers who have teamed up to urge reconciliation, said a few days ago: "Over time, I became convinced we couldn't solve our problems with weapons and we had to talk to the other side." There is a clear convergence with the message of Pope Benedict who states: "War always represents a failure for the international community and a grave loss for humanity."

By walking together on the path of dialogue, respect, justice and love, God's gift of peace can be ours even today.

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Keywords

U.N., Peace, War, Freedom, Holy, See, Tomasi

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