Holy See presents its position before the UN’s Human Rights Council
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič’s first statement consists in the affirmation of the role of culture in society. His second statement covers freedom of religion or belief.
Culture contributes to the very “enjoyment of human rights” due to its ability to “facilitate social cohesion, counter intolerable ideologies, promote reconciliation in post-conflict scenarios, and achieve human development.” Education is the social structure that passes culture and knowledge down to future generations. The Archbishop notes that the academic arena “can be the space for a true experience of intercultural relationship.” Since culture embraces so many elements, such as beliefs, the arts, and language, “respect for cultural identity and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion” go hand in hand.
Social and religious institutions foster cultural pluralism when they mediate culture. “Mutual respect of identities, cultural values and religious beliefs create the humus for the creation of inclusive societies.” On the basis of these remarks, Archbishop Jurkovič proposes that in such a climate, society can integrate immigrants by the creation of “cultural and artistic exchange” and “cooperation between educational systems and cultural organisations,” especially in “conflict-scarred countries.”
He concludes this intervention by saying that “the Holy See reaffirms the key role of art, culture, and religions in building bridges, creating relations, fostering integral human development, and avoiding the culture of waste and exclusion.”
Freedom of Religion or Belief
Because of the modern reality of interconnectedness in which persons of diverse belief and cultures coexist together, freedom of religion should find many opportunities of being expressed in the world today. Instead, Archbishop Jurkovič says, “many societies around the world seem to adopt an attitude of rejection towards religious freedom, marginalizing and at times openly persecuting religious minorities, whether they are a traditional part of the social landscape or they are just recently established in it.”
The Archbishop specifically mentions “blasphemy” and “anti-conversion” laws, and mob violence as realities that “are unfortunately still all too present in our world.” He insists that it is a prerequisite “on which an authentic culture of human rights can be built” that the “deepest convictions of members of a given society” are respected.
Quoting Pope Francis, the Archbishop says that the imposition of ideologies or beliefs leaves society open to “the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable.” With this in mind, he says that the “use of the expression ‘freedom from religion’ ” is “of the utmost concern” for the Holy See since it betrays a patronizing view of religion when, in the words of Pope Francis, “religion itself, the religious dimension, is not a subculture; it is part of the culture of every people and every nation.”
Human Rights Council in Geneva
The UN’s Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body made up of 47 member states. This body meets three times a year in Geneva. The Council addresses the violation of and the promotion of human rights. The Sessions organized by the Council are a vehicle for panel discussions and other events in order to aid dialogue and mutual understanding on specific themes.
The Holy See at the UN
The Holy See enjoys the status of permanent observer to the UN since April 1964. In this position, the Holy See participates in international discussions especially in matters of peace and human dignity.