'Declaration of human rights is the right to religious freedom'

Helsinki, Finland - Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations of the Holy See with States.

The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60 years ago was one of the greatest achievements of the UN. In every continent and country the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed, but put into practice and hopes that in this field the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be able to meet the great expectations generated by its creation.

This was stated by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations of the Holy See with States, during the 16th ministerial meeting of OSCE in Helsinki, Finland.

"One of the human rights recognised in the Universal Declaration of human rights is the right to religious freedom," said the Holy See representative. "In fact, it has become a common theme within the context of international affairs and the OSCE has adopted specific commitments in this regard. The Holy See promotes this right, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern the increasing episodes of violence, as well as the ongoing acts of discrimination and intolerance against Christians and members of other religions.

"The idea that religion is a form of alienation is no longer fashionable and believers can rather constitute a powerful factor in favour of the common good. Furthermore, hatred can find no justification among those who call God "our Father". This is another reason why God can never be excluded from the horizon of the human person or of history. God's name is a name of justice, it represents an urgent appeal for peace."

Turning his attention to the "scourge of trafficking in human beings", Archbishop Mamberti affirmed that "the root causes of this phenomenon include economic factors, such as the imbalance between rural and urban wealth levels and the desperate desire to escape poverty. Juridical and political factors also contribute to the problem, such as the absence of legislation, and the ignorance of parents and trafficked persons of their rights under the law".

"Globalisation and the increased movement of people can also make vulnerable groups, such as women and girls, easier prey for traffickers, who clearly have no regard for the dignity of the human person, and who view people as mere commodities to be bought and sold, used and abused at will.

"There is", he added, "a further aspect which must be acknowledged and collectively addressed if this abhorrent human exploitation is to be effectively confronted. I am referring to the trivialisation of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries which fuels a decline in moral values and leads to the degradation of men and women and even the abuse of children".

The secretary for Relations with States underscored "the commitment of the Catholic Church to uphold the dignity of every human life, especially the most vulnerable", and assuring "full support in efforts of the OSCE to eliminate the scourge of trafficking, in particular of women and children, prostitution, and forced labour".

As regards OSCE, Archbishop Mamberti expressed the strong support of the Holy See for the process which was set in motion precisely in Finland on August 1, 1975 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He said the Helsinki Final Act, signed by the nations of Europe, together with Canada and the US, must be considered as one of the most significant of the instruments of international dialogue.

"On that occasion all of the 25 signatory countries came to an agreement on one basic fact, namely, that peace is not ensured when arms fall silent; rather, peace is the result of cooperation between both individuals on the one hand and societies themselves, and the result of respect for certain ethical imperatives.

"The famous '10 principles' which preface the Helsinki Final Act constitute the basis upon which the peoples of Europe, having been the victims of so many wars and divisions, now wish to consolidate and preserve peace, so that future generations may be able to live in harmony and security - 'from Vancouver to Vladivostok'," said the Holy See representative.

Archbishop Mamberti said that over the years the OSCE has carved out an impressive array of commitments in the human dimension. These commitments remain valid. In general, what is needed is the commitment of more focused energy and efforts to fulfilling the OSCE commitments agreed upon by all participating States, instead of a broadening of these commitments.

"Undue attention to other concerns, even if legitimate, serves only to distract the efforts of the OSCE, as well as to forestall effective and timely measures to address the original commitments, many of which have yet to be implemented."