lajolo 298.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
The Vatican's foreign minister said that misunderstanding between cultures is breeding a "new barbarism" of violent extremists, and expressed hope that reason and dialogue would stop fundamentalists who use their faith as a pretext for attacks.
In a speech on the closing day of the UN General Assembly's ministerial meeting, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo also said extremists are far from being devout believers, and undermine the very religion they claim to defend.
"Violent reactions are always a falsification of true religion," Lajolo said Wednesday in reference to a speech by Pope Benedict XVI about Islam which led to angry and sometimes violent protests by Muslims.
In the Sept. 12 speech at Regensburg University in his native Germany, Benedict quoted words attributed to a 14th century Byzantine emperor: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
In response, Muslims took to the streets in Indonesia, Turkey, Syria and other countries; churches were attacked in the West Bank; an effigy of the pope was burned in Iraq; and a nun was shot dead in Somalia in an attack believed to be linked to the pope's address in Germany.
Lajolo reiterated the Vatican's view that Benedict's remarks were misinterpreted. He said the pope has sought only to promote rational dialogue and understanding - which he considers the opposite of the narrow views and fundamentalism that give rise to violence.
Benedict has expressed regret for offending Muslims by his remarks and said they did not reflect his personal views, but he has not offered a complete apology as some had sought.
Lajolo suggested that the cause of the anger over the Pope's remarks may also lie in the lack of understanding between religions and a schism between reason and faith.
"As the Pope affirmed, were reason to turn a deaf ear to the divine and relegate religion to the ambit of subcultures, it would automatically provoke violent reactions," Lajolo, who also serves as president of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, told the assembly.
"It falls to all interested parties - to civil society as well as to states - to promote religious freedom and a sane, social tolerance that will disarm extremists even before they can begin to corrupt others with their hatred of life and liberty," he said.
The Vatican's view that Benedict's remarks have been misinterpreted was part of the general theme in Lajolo's speech about misunderstandings in the modern world. He compared it to the story of the Tower of Babel, saying the "confusion of tongues" in the Biblical city was a symbol of the fracturing and hostilities in the contemporary world.
"Human pride hampers the acknowledgment of one's neighbor and the recognition of his or her needs and even more makes people distrusting," he said.
"Today, that same negative fundamental attitude has given rise to a new barbarism that threatens world peace," the Vatican minister said.
Terrorists bent on "rejecting the best achievements of our civilization" are one example, Lajolo said, but major powers, in their attempt to make the world more fair, may also occasionally slide into believing that this can only be achieved by force.
"It can go so far as to regard the possession of nuclear weapons as an element of national pride," he said.
Lajolo called for the United Nations to intervene promptly in conflicts to prevent major violence, and reproached the world body for not responding sooner with a cease-fire resolution to end the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
"I regret to say that the Security Council's resolution 1701 of Aug. 11, 2006, could have been adopted with the same wording one month previously," Lajolo said.
He also argued that the international community needs to work more actively on correcting "fundamental inequalities in the world" to prevent future wars.
"The surest way to prevent war is to address its causes," he said.
"It must not be forgotten that at the root of war there are usually real and serious grievances - injustices suffered; a lack of development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; legitimate aspirations frustrated, and the exploitation of multitudes of desperate people who see no real possibility of improving their lot by peaceful means," Lajolo said.