Holy See on the Rights of Youth

"Each and Every Child ... Should Grow Up in a Family Environment"

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NEW YORK, JULY 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a statement given today by Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations. He addressed the high-level meeting on youth.

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Mr. President,

Fifty years ago the United Nations first recognized the specific contribution of young people when it adopted the Declaration on the Promotion of Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples (A/RES/20/2037), in which the General Assembly affirmed important principles to help guide the work of Governments, non-governmental organizations and youth movements to this very day. The Declaration affirmed that all young people should be brought up in the spirit of peace, justice, freedom, mutual respect and understanding in order to promote equal rights for all persons and all nations, economic and social progress, disarmament and the maintenance of international peace and security. Young people are the future of humanity and they have a crucial role to play in its future as they enter into adulthood. To do so responsibly, they need a proper education that enables them to distinguish between right and wrong, virtue and vice.

Mr. President,

Last year, the General Assembly, in having declared the present International Year of Youth, insightfully drew attention to two important elements for the advancement of peace, namely, dialogue and mutual understanding (A/RES/64/134). This theme has been an invitation to listen to the aspirations and interests of young people, to engage in a mutual exchange with them and to translate these exchanges into a real sharing of wisdom for the common good. The pursuit of the common good helps the human family to live in a virtuous manner.

Many young people experience a deep desire for personal relationships marked by truth and solidarity. Many of the young yearn to build authentic friendships, to know true love, to start a family that will remain united and to achieve personal fulfillment and real security, all of which promise a serene and happy future. The Member States of the United Nations have the responsibility to help young people in this regard by upholding in principle and in fact the Charter of this Organization.

Mr. President,

Each and every young person should be able to be brought up in an environment in which he or she is able to grow and learn, that is, in a community and society characterized by peace and harmony, free from all violence and discord. Each and every child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding (cf., Convention on the Rights of the Child, Preamble). It is precisely this environment which will promote good and responsible citizenship that is essential to the common good of humanity.

The family is where young people first learn moral responsibility and respect for others. The family has an important role to play in educating children to develop all their faculties and in training them to acquire ethical and spiritual values and to be deeply attached to peace, liberty and the dignity and equality of all men and women. The family, founded on the marriage between one man and one woman, is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and must be guaranteed protection by society and the State (cf., Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 16,3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 23,1). 

Mr. President,

Parents -- mother and father together -- have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children to help them become virtuous citizens and leaders. Parents cannot withdraw from this essential role. States are called, in conformity with international instruments, to respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents in this regard (cf., CRC, Articles 5 and 18,1). Youth policies, programmes, action plans and commitments approved by Member States must respect fully the role of parents regarding their children's wellbeing and their education, including in the area of human sexuality and so-called "sexual and reproductive health", that should not include abortion.

Mr. President,

The outcome document of this High-level Plenary Meeting gives attention to the elimination of all forms of violence against youth, to promoting their health and well-being, to protecting the rights of all young migrants, to improving the quality of education and ensuring universal access to education for all youth, and to addressing the importance of decent work for young people. Member States have an important responsibility to help facilitate integral human development so that children and young people everywhere will be provided with the opportunity to realize their great potential which includes their personal prosperity and that of all with whom they share this planet. For this to happen, the rights of children and young people must be safeguarded and upheld in full conformity with the norms of the natural moral order.

Mr. President,

Many people in the world today do not have stable points of reference on which to build their lives and so they end up being deeply insecure. There is a growing mentality of relativism, which holds that everything is equally valid, that truth and absolute points of reference do not exist. Such a way of thinking does not lead to authentic freedom, but rather to instability, confusion and blind conformity to the fads of the moment with which certain cultures around the world tempt our youth. Young people are entitled to receive from previous generations solid points of reference to help them make choices on which to build their lives. The Madrid World Youth Day 2011, convening in just a few weeks and bringing together the largest gathering of young people from around the world, will provide an opportunity for them to celebrate and foster the importance of the spiritual dimension of their lives rooted in the truth of the human person (cf., Message of Pope Benedict XVI for the Twenty-Sixth World Youth Day 2011).

Member States and this organization can make positive contributions in this regard and so must be willing to recommit continually to upholding and implementing the principles enshrined in the Charter and the internationally agreed foundational human rights instruments. The more they are able to do this, the more our youth will be able to help advance the cause of peace, supported by their families, and build societies based on respect for spiritual and ethical values and directed to the common good of all.

Thank you, Mr. President.