During floor debate March 28 at the United Nations on women, peace and security, the Vatican’s U.N. nuncio said women have gifts to share in building peace.
“Women are drivers of development and human flourishing in multiple fields: in the family and faith communities, in sociocultural initiatives and humanitarian efforts, in education and health care, in mediation and preventive diplomacy, in peacekeeping and peacebuilding,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who heads the Vatican’s permanent observer mission to the U.N.
The time has come, Archbishop Auza said, to recognize “the vital role of women in preventive diplomacy, mediation, peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding processes. This recognition, however, must be fully translated into action in order to unleash skills and capacities that allow women to bring order out of chaos, community out of division, and peace out of conflict.”
He added, “Their special gift in educating people to be more receptive and sensitive of the needs of others around them and beyond is crucial in conflict resolution and in fostering post-conflict reconciliation.”
Their skills are needed in particular in Africa, according to Archbishop Auza. “In many countries in Africa, in particular in the Great Lakes Region, peaceful and inclusive societies are still a distant dream,” he said. “Women can greatly contribute toward (their) realization.”
He added, “The rise of more and more African women to high political and diplomatic spheres can greatly help Africa find answers to the problems that until now have kept it from sharing fully the fruits of development and the dividends of peace.”
Archbishop Auza cited the “profound and lasting effects” women have had in improving society. “These women, even in the most difficult circumstances, distinguish themselves for their bravery, constancy and dedication. Women and girls who have become victims of rape and other forms of violence during conflicts find security and understanding in the institutions run by these women, more often than not by women religious,” he said.
Even so, “it is still a steep uphill struggle to emancipate themselves from situations of marginalization, violence, abandonment and exclusion,” Archbishop Auza said. “The world today continues to be confronted with various old and new forms of violence directed against women and girls, in particular the use of rape as a weapon of war during conflicts, the abuses in refugee camps, the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, forced abortion, forced conversion and forced marriage. Instead of being eradicated, some of these acts of violence have re-emerged in even crueler forms, constituting some of the most horrendous violations of human rights.”
The archbishop noted the deaths of four Missionaries of Charity in Yemen, “massacred by cowardly fundamentalists. … They devoted their lives for poor and elderly women, a dozen of whom were also killed with them.”