As the Vatican's permanent observer at the United Nations, it's Archbishop Renato Martino's job to defend the rights and dignity of the human person throughout the world. Following is the second part of his interview with Sabrina Arena Ferrisi.
Tell me about the Path to Peace Foundation. How was it founded and what has been the effect of these awards?
Ah, my jewel! The Path to Peace Foundation was founded 10 years ago in order to help the Holy See mission propagate the teachings of the Church on social matters debated at the U.N. and other international forums.
You know that as a diplomatic mission, the Holy See would have no means to afford added expenses. So through this foundation we can celebrate symposiums, publish books, hold concerts — all activities that are related to the promotion of peace.
Tell me about the different awards?
We have created three kinds of awards. The first is the Path to Peace award, which is given yearly to a statesman or stateswoman. All have distinguished themselves for their work in favor of peace.
For example, we gave this award to Corazon Aquino (Philippines), Lech Walesa (Poland) and Violetta Chamorro (Nicaragua), for bringing their countries to democratic rule peacefully. We also gave this award to King Baudouin of Belgium, for his courageous stand against abortion. About 10 years ago, you may remember that he resigned for one day from his kingdom so that he would not have to sign the law on abortion. When we decided to offer him the award, he died shortly afterwards. His wife, Queen Fabiola, came to collect the award instead.
The second award is called Servitor Pacis, or Servant of Peace, which is given to persons who promote peace in the field. Each is an example of dedication, generosity and service to mankind.
For example, we gave this award to a Salvatorian priest who takes care of street children in Hong Kong. Another award went to a Salvatorian priest and brother who take care of Cambodian refugees in Thailand and now, back in Cambodia, former refugees.
Another award was given to a Consolata missionary in Kenya, who built a 200-mile aqueduct to transport water to the village where he lives. The water also goes to neighboring villages. There was also the posthumous award to two nuns killed in East Timor during the fight for independence.
This year, we will give the award to the former chief of the Jesuit Refugee Service, Father Mark Raper — for his many years assisting refugees all over the world.
The third kind of award is called Champion of Peace. We have only given it out two times. It is given to institutions. The first award was given to the American associations of the Order of Malta for their unceasing activities in favor of the poor and sick. This year it went to the Order of the Knights of Columbus. They have over 1.5 million members in the U.S., Canada, the Philippines and a few Latin American countries. You cannot imagine the work they do. Every year they report millions of hours of service to their communities. We wanted to single them out because we see their good works and how they give glory to God.
Can you speak about this summer's U.N. conference in Durban on racism?
We witnessed the shaky development of this conference. The real question that could have been solved was overshadowed by the controversy of Israel and anti-Semitism.
I think that it was there, in Durban, that the wealthy nations could have made amends for century-old faults, like slavery and colonialism. I am not in favor of asking for forgiveness. The real action that should have been done was to realize the historical sins; and then given the situation of those countries and regions, to make reparations — canceling debt, opening markets.
This would have been much better because when you open markets, you give the possibility to those nations to participate on equal footing. The poorer nations produce many things that are needed in the Western world.
Sabrina Ferrisi writes from Rome.