By Lisa Zengarini

Mar 23 2024

During a commemorative event in New York marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nation highlights the crucial role of education in eradicating racial prejudice, and decries ongoing racial discrimination against migrants or refugees of African descent in their countries of destination.

On Mar 21 the United Nations marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The observance coincides with the anniversary of the killing of 69 people by the police at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960.

This year’s theme is linked to the International Decade for People of African Descent, which spans the timeframe from 2015 to 2024.

Speaking at a commemorative event in New York on Thursday, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, reiterated the Holy See’s  strong condemnation of racism and racial discrimination in all its forms and highlighted the crucial role of education to eradicate it.

Many forms of racism

He recalled that racism takes many forms which can be deliberate and overt acts of discrimitation, or unconscious prejudices. “Consciously or not,” he said “this attitude of superiority fuels a throwaway mentality that leads to contempt for and abandonment of the weakest and those who are seen as useless.”

“Racism can manifest itself in thoughts and actions that we may not even think of as racist, but which come from the same place of prejudice.”

Ideological colonization

Racism can also manifest itself in the form of omission, “when individuals and communities remain silent and fail to act against racism, racial discrimination and racial injustice.”

The Nuncio further noted that there is also another form of racism which is not less insidious, and which Pope Francis has labelled as “ideological colonization”,  when “certain countries seek to impose their ideologies on other States, sometimes withholding financial support and humanitarian aid unless that State adopts and implements their positions.”

Crucial role of education in eradicating prejudices

The seriousness of these phenomena “based on a distorted belief in the superiority of one person over another” cannot leave us indifferent, said Archbishop Caccia reiterating that it is everybody’s responsibility “to foster and promote respect for the inherent dignity of every human person”.

To fight racism, he stressed , we must eradicate its root cause which lie in ignorance and prejudice. Hence the crucial importance of education which, as emphasized By Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti,  should begin in the family where  “the values of love and fraternity, togetherness and sharing, concern and care for others are lived out and handed on.”

Racial discrimination against migrants and refugees of African descent

Concluding  the Vatican Observer pointed to the racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and intolerance suffered by many migrants or refugees of African descent in their countries of destination. Again, he reaffirmed the need for inclusive integration strategies.

As members of the same human family, every individual deserves a place to call home”, he remarked. “Refugees and migrants can never be seen as mere objects in need of assistance, but as human beings with equal dignity, carrying rights and duties.”

“Every individual deserves a place to call home. This means having food, access to housing, healthcare and education, and dignified work. It also means having a place where you are understood and included, loved and cared for, where you can participate and contribute.”

WCC observing a “Week of Prayer for Overcoming Racism and Xenophobia”

The World Council of Churhes is also marking he UN International Day with a Week of Prayer for Overcoming Racism and Xenophobia running from Mar 19 to Mar 25, on which the UN International Day for the Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is observed. The international ecumenical body is providing materials, prepared by a team from Latin America, as well as other from other regions, for each day. The resources, appropriate for groups or individuals, include songs, scriptures, reflections, and more.

The week opened with an ecumenical prayer in which the WCC President from Europe, Rev Dr Susan Durber challenged the Christian communities globally and the ecumenical movement to be convicted of the evil of racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. – Vatican News