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UN must act to prevent genocide of Christians, says nuncio

A Syrian child cries at a refugee camp in Lebanon (AP)

Pointing to “the grave violations and abuses” committed by ISIS militants in the Middle East, Archbishop Auza, the Vatican’s nuncio to the United Nations (UN), called on the necessary UN agencies to take action “to prevent possible new genocides and to assist the increasing number of refugees”.

The archbishop, who heads the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN, said the Vatican “appeals in particular for the protection of the ethnic and religious groups, including the Christian communities, who are specifically targeted and victimised because of their ethnic origins and religious beliefs.”

The right of such communities and all displaced people to return to their homes and to live in dignity and safety must be respected, he added.

Archbishop Auza, who made his comments in a statement to the UN Security Council during an open debate on the situation in the Middle East, said the escalation of terrorism around the globe should be a catalyst for all nations to realise they have a responsibility “to protect people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and all forms of unjust aggression.”

He said that every religious leader in the entire Middle East region and around the world must promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue, denounce “every use of religion to justify violence” and educate people about the need for mutual respect. The Middle East needs constant prayers but, more than that, the region “requires … an adequate response by the international community.”

The archbishop went on to say that peace in the Middle East “can only be sought through negotiated settlements and not through unilateral choices imposed with the use of force.”

“The Holy See has always followed the situation in the Middle East with great interest and concern. It has always pleaded for negotiations and dialogue among the parties involved. It has always tried to do all it could to help the victims of violence,” he said.

“Given the rapidly deteriorating situation in the region during these last months, Pope Francis has intensified his efforts to push for negotiations and call all parties to respect the international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights.”

With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, the Vatican has long supported “a two-state solution,” he added.

“Israel and Palestine, with the vigorous support of the competent organs of the United Nations and of the whole international community,” he said, “must work toward the final objective, which is the realisation of the right of the Palestinians to have their own state, sovereign and independent, and of the right of the Israelis to peace and security.”

Archbishop Auza quoted what Pope Francis said about the situation during the pontiff’s first trip to the Holy Land in May: “The time has come for everyone to find … the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognised borders.”

Regarding the “horrific situation in Syria,” the UN nuncio said the Vatican “urgently calls on all parties to stop the massive violations of international humanitarian law and fundamental human rights, and on the international community to help the parties find a solution.”

“There is no other way to alleviate and put an end to the untold sufferings of the entire nation, where half of its population needs humanitarian assistance and around a third has been displaced,” Archbishop Auza said.

The Syrian crisis and the presence of massive numbers of refugees in Lebanon is having a grave effect on that country, he continued, urging that Lebanon “find a solution as soon as possible” to the presidential vacancy there.

“The Holy See reaffirms its support for a sovereign and free Lebanon,” he said. “Lebanon is a ‘message,’ a ‘sign’ full of hope for the coexistence of the various groups that form it.”