Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican Observer to the UN in New York, addresses the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and says that ongoing racism in our societies can be eradicated by promoting a true culture of encounter.
By Lisa Zengarini
As the World observed the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, the Holy See reiterated its strong condemnation of any form of racism which, it says, should be countered by promoting a culture of solidarity and authentic human fraternity.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Vatican Observer Archbishop Gabriele Caccia stated that racism is based upon the “distorted belief” that one person is superior to another, which starkly contrasts the fundamental principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
A crisis in human relationships
The Nuncio lamented that “despite the commitment of the international community to eradicate it”, racism continues to re-emerge like a mutating “virus”, resulting in what Pope Francis has called “a crisis in human relationships.”
“Instances of racism”, he said, “still plague our societies”, either explicitly as overt racial discrimination, which is “often identified and condemned”, or at a deeper level in society as racial prejudice, which though less evident, still exists.
Countering racial prejudice by promoting culture of encounter
“The crisis in human relationships resulting from racial prejudice”, Archbishop Caccia stressed, “can be effectively countered by the promotion of a culture of encounter, solidarity, and authentic human fraternity” which “does not mean simply to live together and tolerate one another”. Rather, it means that we meet others, “seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone,” as Pope Francis calls for in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti. “Building such a culture is a process that stems from recognizing the unique perspective and invaluable contribution that each person brings to society, the Vatican Observer added.
“Only the recognition of human dignity can make possible the common and personal growth of everyone and every society. To stimulate this kind of growth it is necessary in particular to ensure conditions of equal opportunity for men and women and guarantee an objective equality between all human beings.”
Racism targeting migrants and refugees
Archbishop Caccia concluded his remarks by expressing the Holy See’s concern for the racism and racial prejudice targeting migrants and refugees. In this regard, the Vatican Nuncio highlighted the need for a change “from attitudes of defensiveness and fear“ towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, “the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established by the United Nations in 1966 and is observed annually on the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in 1960.
World Council of Churches holding a special week of prayer
The observance is also commemorated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) with a special week of prayer from March 19 to March 25, the UN International Day for the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
The WCC is providing materials for each day that include songs, scriptures, reflections, and more. Collectively, the material shows how a just and inclusive world is possible only when all are able to live with dignity and justice. Many nations and peoples—from India to Guyana and other countries—are highlighted in the reflections, which are appropriate for both individuals and groups. The prayers are an invitation to stand in prayerful solidarity with one another across regions, and condemn all manifestations of racial injustice.