Catholic World News

Vatican UN envoy: recognizing religion’s public dimension can combat extremism

July 17, 2017

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has released a 30-page “Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.”

Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, was present at the document’s July 14 release.

“While the Holy See is not able to support every one of the 177 targets flowing from the Plan’s nine groups of thematic recommendations and 35 objectives, the plan as a whole represents a major, practical step forward in fostering a culture and society consistent with ... the responsibility to protect,” the prelate said.

Commenting on the plan of action, Archbishop Auza emphasized that states, not religious leaders, are ultimately responsible for stopping atrocities, and that arguments from the secular world are less likely to dissuade potential extremists than statements from religious leaders.

State recognition of the public dimension of religious freedom, rather than a secular confinement religion to the private sphere, can contribute to a culture in which religious leaders speak out against extremism, Archbishop Auza continued. He added:

The most important contribution of religious leaders to this debate is to help people understand that acknowledging the religious dimension of violent extremism, or rather the manipulation of religion for violent ends, does not mean equating religion, or a particular religion, or an entire religious community, with violence.

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