Pope’s rep on Middle East

Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See

United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Settlement of Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering terrorist threat in the Region”

New York, 30 September 2015

Mr. President,

My delegation wishes to thank Russia’s Presidency of the Security Council for convening this timely Open Debate on the “Settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering terrorist threat in the region”.

In his Address to the General Assembly last Friday, Pope Francis renewed his  “appeals regarding the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.”

The migration crisis in the Mediterranean and in many parts of Europe has been provoked in a significant manner by violence and persecution perpetrated by terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa. The body of the three-old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore in Turkey represents the thousands who have perished in the perilous journey to flee from violence and persecution. Aylan’s limp and lifeless body cries to the international community, in particular to this Council, to do all that it can to stop the madness, so that other innocent lives like his may be spared from the same tragic fate. Whatever we do from this moment on will be too little too late for Aylan and the thousands whose lives were ended due to our collective indifference and geopolitical and national rivalries. But from now on every action to spare even just one Aylan from death and from all forms of atrocity is not only timely but urgent.  The Holy See is calling on the international community not to remain silent and inert before all the tragedies happening even at this very moment as we speak and before the watch of this Council.

Mr. President,

Enumerating once more before this Council the multiple and complex emergencies that the Middle East and North Africa continue to face on an unprecedented scale is unnecessary. But the Holy See feels compelled to echo the pleadings of the 12 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom seven million are internally displaced and five million have become refugees in other countries. My delegation considers it a grave duty to denounce the utterly senseless destruction of some of world’s priceless cultural patrimony in Syria. The situation is extremely grave and is worsening day by day. Thus, the settlement of the conflict in Syria must be at the top of the priorities of this Council and of all the authorities in Syria and in the Middle East.

My delegation avails of this opportunity to reiterate the Holy See’s profound gratitude to those countries in the region who, in spite of their own difficult situation and limited resources, have welcomed and taken care of the millions of refugees. On her part, the Catholic Church remains active at the forefront in providing humanitarian aid to all those in need with all the means at her disposal.

Mr. President,

Flooding the region with more and more destructive weapons will not end the violence and the sufferings. What the region needs are negotiated political solutions to the conflicts that continue to engulf it.  The region needs these solutions now, if it is going to win the war against terror; if its populations are not going to be constrained to flee; if freedom and stable democracy are going to have any chance to flourish in the region; if the leaders of the region are going  to learn to settle disputes peacefully; and if outside forces and powers are going to refrain from imposing their wills in the region.

Any lasting solution to the conflicts in the Middle East and, indeed, to all conflicts in the world, must consider the centrality of the inviolable dignity and rights of the human person regardless of race, religion, political belief and differences. Many individual citizens and groups in the region have suffered and continue to suffer death and all forms of violence because of their religion, ethnicity or political beliefs. Terrorists must never be allowed to destroy centuries of peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Christians in the region. The lie of terrorist groups who claim to kill and oppress in the name of religion must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. How can we watch in silent paralysis as our fellow human beings are being persecuted, exiled, killed, burned, and beheaded, solely because they hold a different religious creed or they happen to belong to a minority group?

I would like to return in conclusion to the Address of Pope Francis to the General Assembly last Friday, when he said, “War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment.   If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.” Now is the time for life-saving action.

Thank you, Mr. President.