Racism Wears Different Masks Today, Cardinal Warns

U.N. Round Table Prepares for a World Conference

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 6, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Racism "is more alive than ever, under different guises," Cardinal Roger Etchegaray told a U.N. round table in Geneva.



The cardinal, a former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, participated in the round table last Friday at the invitation of Mary Robinson, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The round table was in preparation for the World Conference Against Racial Discrimination, planned for Aug. 1 to Sept. 7 in Durban, South Africa.

"We will never know how to crush this evil sufficiently, which does not cease to be reborn from its ashes," the cardinal said. The Vatican Press Office published the text of his address today.

Cardinal Etchegaray, 78, is one of a group of eminent figures established by the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, in preparation for the World Conference.

The group´s president is former South African President Nelson Mandela. Other members include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Grand Mufti Soheib Bencheikh El Hocine of Marseilles, France.

In studying the anatomy of racism, Cardinal Etchegaray referred to those cases in which "a nation tends to become the supreme measure of its citizens by identifying with an ethnic group."

He quoted from a Jan. 15, 1994, address of John Paul II: "History shows that when states are not equal, individuals also cease [to be equal]. In this way, the natural solidarity among peoples is destroyed, the sense of proportion is perverted, the principle of the unity of humankind is despised."

According to the cardinal, the battle against racism is an "exhausting war, undoubtedly the hardest combat for human rights," because the "object of this war is the perfect equality of all men, and this is a kind of challenge of the spirit against nature, because men are more sensitive to difference than to equality."

Cardinal Etchegaray told Vatican Radio on Sunday that he hoped the conclusions of the conference would not be limited to specific questions "no matter how serious they are," forgetting "forms of racism that today are hidden everywhere in the world and that perhaps are practiced without realizing it."