Archbishop Celestino Migliore
Permanent Observer of the Holy See
62nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
The Secretary-General’s Symposium on “Supporting Victims of Terrorism”
New York, 9 September 2008
This meeting comes at an opportune time as it allows us to complement our primarily practical debate on how to fight terrorism with an indispensable attention to the fundamental needs of those who are directly harmed by terrorist acts.
My delegation welcomes this meeting as an opportunity to express our solidarity with the victims of terrorism and to discuss ways to best address their physical, mental and spiritual needs. Terrorist acts deny people not only their fundamental human rights but also strike at the very heart of the things we hold close: our families, our homes and our basic trust in humanity. By hearing the voices of victims and remembering those whose voices have been taken, we are given the opportunity of finding ways to rebuild lives, alleviate suffering and end the senseless cycles of violence and hatred.
The Holy See continues to hold the needs of victims as a preeminent concern and priority.
Shortly after the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001, His Holiness John Paul II called for a day of fasting and solidarity in order to support those affected by the consequences of terrorism and war and to encourage healing among various faiths and cultures. This event, coinciding with the last day of Ramadan, provided an opportunity for intercultural and interfaith condemnation of terrorism while simultaneously remembering and honoring those whose lives were lost. The money raised around the world during this event went to assist the victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks.
This is only one example of the many ways in which the Holy See and other related organizations provide immediate assistance to victims of terrorist activities and those who live in conflict-affected regions, the initial causes of which are linked to or perpetuated by terrorist activity. They have also provided counseling, food, security and shelter to victims of terrorism in all corners of the globe. The direct involvement of these organizations demonstrates yet again the valuable contribution of civil society organizations to promoting human rights and human dignity.
While these organizations and many other civil society and faith-based organizations provide immediate legal, social and material assistance, greater efforts must be made to address the long-term spiritual and psychological effects of terrorism. Centers that provide grief counseling and spiritual support serve as a vital component in helping victims cope with their loss but also lay the ground work for preventing reprisals and continued violence. Programs which provide restorative justice to the victims of terrorism help to alleviate the continuous cycles of violence, hatred and mistrust.
Debates over who are victims and who are perpetrators of terrorist activities are needed for the sake of a good anti-terrorism strategy, but they should not cloud or obfuscate the urgency to address the immediate needs of those whose lives and livelihoods are lost by this direct affront to humanity. The recent adoption of the biennial review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy provides a coherent means for addressing international terrorism but continued efforts must be made to ensure that those who are the victims of terrorist activity are provided not only a voice but a helping hand.
In the end, terrorist activity does nothing to promote authentic political or social aims but only ensures the creation of more victims. Whether these victims are created as a result of initial terrorist activity or as a result of indiscriminate reactions to terrorist actions, the cycle of violence begets only suffering, fear and hatred. While we rightly condemn all acts of terrorism, care must be taken in order to give a voice to those whose voices have been wrongfully taken.