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A mural depicts an expression of African culture in Caracas, Venezuela A mural depicts an expression of African culture in Caracas, Venezuela  (AFP or licensors)

Holy See recalls Durban Declaration, condemns racism and intolerance

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher sends a video message to mark the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration, which sets out measures to combat racism, intolerance, and xenophobia.

By Devin Watkins

The United Nations hosted a high-level event on Wednesday in New York, which saw heads of state and government discuss “reparations, racial justice, and equality for people of African descent.”

The event marked the 20th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA), which proposed concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance.

Fragile social progress

The Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States sent a video message to participants in the high-level UN meeting, expressing the Holy See’s commitment to combating racial injustice.

“Racism is rooted in the erroneous and evil claim that one human being has less dignity than another,” said Archbishop Gallagher in the video message.

He noted that this attitude ignores the fact that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, as well as the importance of promoting a “spirit of brotherhood.”

As Pope Francis says in Fratelli tutti, racism reveals that “social progress is not as real or definitive as we think.”

Solidarity overcomes racism

As the high-level meeting focuses on the difficulties faced around the world by people of African descent, Archbishop Gallagher expressed his hopes that the “Permanent Forum for People of African Descent” will help provide justice and support for victims of racism.

“Many persons of African descent around the world are migrants or refugees that after leaving their homes – or being forced to leave – face racism and xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance in countries of destination, rather than the support that they need,” lamented Archbishop Gallagher.

On the other hand, he said, racism can be overcome through “a culture of encounter, fraternity, and solidarity.”

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Religious persecution

The Durban Declaration, added Archbishop Gallagher, also speaks against violence and intolerance on the basis of religion or belief.

“Disregard for the right to freedom of religion and belief leads to the violation of further human rights,” he said, noting that recent years have seen an uptick in religious persecutions.

Entire populations are being discriminated against, as perpetrators enjoy impunity, he lamented.

“Some religious minorities in certain regions even face extinction,” he said, “including Christians who represent the most persecuted group globally.”

Threat of eugenics

Archbishop Gallagher also pointed to another form of discrimination in the “insidious practice of eugenics.”

“We could say that a eugenic mentality often lurks behind artificial procreation techniques and the dark sides of pre-natal diagnostics, where the idea that there are human beings of inferior value because of disability, sex, or other traits often leads to the denial of their right to life,” he said.

The Secretary for Relations with States concluded his video message to world leaders recalling that religion plays an important role in eradicating racism and intolerance.

However, he said, “racism will disappear…only when it dies in people’s hearts.”

Archbishop Gallagher's video message
23 September 2021, 09:38