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Holy See at OSCE reiterates respect for human rights of all

The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the UN and Specialized Institutions in Vienna participated in a special event organized in Warsaw on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

By Robin Gomes

The Holy See has once more stressed its conviction that “the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family – without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion – is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”.   Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Vienna, Austria, addressed an event organized in Warsaw, Poland, on Oct. 15, to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).  ODIHR is the principal institution of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) dealing with the “human dimension” of security.

Inalienable and inviolable rights

“Human rights,” the Holy See representative said, “are universal, inalienable and inviolable.” “Universal because they are present in all human beings, without exception of time, place or subject. Inviolable insofar as ‘they are inherent in the human person and in human dignity’ […]. [And] Inalienable insofar as ‘no one can legitimately deprive another person, whoever they may be, of these rights, since this would do violence to their nature’.”

Rights abuse continue

However, he said, to bear fruit, it is not sufficient that fundamental human rights are solemnly proclaimed. They must also be put into practice.  He lamented that in many parts of the world,  there seems to be no end to grave offences against fundamental human rights.  These rights, he pointed out,  are not always fully respected even in democratic countries.  In this regard, the OSCE has the advantage to confront these offences, advance the cause of universal human rights and promote the much-needed accurate protection of these rights.

The OSCE comprises 57 participating states  encompassing three continents – North America, Europe and Asia – and more than a billion people.

Disagreement within OSCE

Archbishop Urbanczyk however pointed out that even in the OSCE, participating states hold diverging and sometimes contradictory positions concerning human dimension issues. There are disagreements on the very understanding or interpretation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Hence, he said, participating states need to unite again around the universal principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms that underpin the human dimension.  It is only when participating states agree on what the concept of ‘a human right’ means, that the human dimension of OSCE will become again a powerful cornerstone in the comprehensive approach to security and cooperation.

Common understanding of human rights

In this regard, the Holy See official spoke about the concern of Pope Francis regarding the progressive change in the interpretation of some rights, with the inclusion of “new rights” that are often in conflict with one another.  In the name of human rights, he warned, this could lead to the rise of modern forms of ideological colonization by the stronger and the wealthier to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable. Hence according to the Holy See, the only meaningful approach to the human dimension is to seek a common understanding of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as of their protection and promotion.

Hate crimes against Christians

In a separate OSCE session addressing issues of intolerance and discrimination, Archbishop Urbanczyk denounced hate crimes against Christians and members of other religions.  He said cases of threats, violent attacks and murders, as well as profanation of churches, and devastation of places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties, documented by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), also occur frequently in the OSCE area.  These incidents not only impact Christians and members of other religions negatively, but also threaten the social cohesion and the common good of OSCE member states.

The Holy See representative commended the OSCE for being the first international organization to have raised the alarm about intolerance and discrimination against Christians. He expressed hope the Organization will undertake efforts to address the security needs of Christian communities, as it did for Jewish and Muslim communities.

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