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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Vatican is facing stinging criticism after it lauded a controversial "anti-racism" document widely denounced for its anti-Semitism and refusal to acknowledge caste discrimination by upper-caste Hindus against millions of India's untouchables (Dalits).
While at least 34 countries boycotted the 20th-anniversary commemoration of the hugely controversial United Nations (U.N.) World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, the Holy See said it was "pleased to participate" in the celebrations.
The one-day high-level U.N. meeting is focusing on "reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent" by adopting a "victim-centered framework, which emphasizes the plight of victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
In a video speech delivered to the U.N. General Assembly session Wednesday, Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Abp. Paul Gallagher quoted Pope Francis' encyclical Fratelli Tutti, claiming racism regularly hid beneath the surface "only to keep remerging."
"The Durban Declaration rightly expresses concern about intolerance, hostile acts and violence against religious groups," Gallagher said, stressing how Christians "represent the most persecuted group globally."
"Racism can and must be defeated through a culture of encounter, fraternity and solidarity," Gallagher noted, praising "international agreements and declarations such as the Durban Declaration" as "an important and necessary step."
The archbishop also condemned "the insidious practice of eugenics" as a "form of discrimination" that "lurks behind artificial procreation techniques and the dark sides of prenatal diagnostics, where the idea that there are human beings of inferior value because of disability, sex or other traits often leads to the denial of their right to life."
But critics noted that the Vatican's statement completely failed to acknowledge that the U.N. World Conference Against Racism was, according to Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid, the "worst international manifestation of anti-Semitism since World War II."
"Inflammatory speeches, discriminatory texts and a pro-Hitler march that took place outside the halls were only part of the ugliness displayed in 2001," a statement from Israel's foreign ministry lamented.
"The 'World Conference on Racism' actually ended up encouraging it, including through the parallel NGO [non-governmental organization] forum, which displayed caricatures of Jews with hooked noses and fangs dripping with blood, clutching money," the statement added.
In comments to Church Militant, popular Israel-based writer Rabbi Chananya Weissman said Gallagher's statement was "full of meaningless buzzwords" and "devoid of substance."
Drawing on Gallagher's speech, Weissman asked if the Vatican supported "'discrimination and intolerance' against Israelites who have returned to their God-given homeland and don't want to surrender any part of it to a fictitious 'Palestinian' people devoted to destroying them."
"The Vatican supports 'discrimination and intolerance' against people who do not wish to get injected with needless, dangerous garbage and seems to have no regard for their 'freedom' and 'dignity' — even if their conscientious objections are on religious grounds," Rabbi Weissman added, blasting the Vatican for its discrimination against the unvaccinated.
Jewish anthropologist Karen Harradine also blasted the Holy See for "sadly slipping back into anti-Semitism" by "lavishly praising what is essentially a hate-fest against Jews."
"How odd that the Vatican can be so concerned about racism yet neglect to mention the most pernicious racism practiced at that conference, that against Jews," Harradine observed.
The Jewish columnist, who hails from South Africa, explained:
The original Durban Conference paid homage to the Nazis, with a pro-Hitler march, propagating blood libels against Israel and displaying caricatures of Jews that would not look out of place in a publication of [Nazi era newspaper] Der Stürmer. The U.N. has form when it comes to anti-Semitism and perpetuating hatred against Israel.
Many of the countries taking part in this commemoration are guilty of practicing extreme racism and xenophobia themselves through the enslavement, persecution and slaughter of Christians. But the Vatican ignores this too and even endorses it by its secret concordat with China.
But Jews were not the only targets of Durban Conference racism.
Indian Dalits — many of whom converted to Catholicism and other Christian denominations and remain doubly marginalized — have also expressed outrage over the Durban Declaration.
Paul Divakar of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) complained the Durban Conference had "totally eliminated any mention of caste or discrimination based on work and descent" and ignored abuses against 260 million people.
Over 180 Dalit delegates from India traveled to Durban in 2001 but were distressed by the conference's unwillingness to discuss caste-based racism following pressure from the Indian government.
In a tweet Wednesday, Israel's foreign ministry director-general Alon Ushpiz noted that "the halls of the U.N. General Assembly are empty and with good cause. Honorable men and women will not dignify this antisemitic event with their presence."
Ushpiz thanked over 30 countries including Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Britain and the United States for withdrawing from the conference.
Over the years, academics have also noted that the U.N. World Conference Against Racism turned out to be a "racist anti-racism conference."
Scholars identified the "pernicious role" played by NGOs that "trumpeted a 'victim-oriented' approach to human rights protection, which turned out to mean alleged victim-oriented approach or claimants rule, or the self-selection of the loudest, most aggressive or best-funded of the gang."
"Durban was not about legitimate critique of policies affecting human rights in all nations with equal or worse human rights records. It was about grossly distorting the nature of one conflict for political gain," Professor Anne Bayefsky commented.
"Durban provides a platform for hate and violence, which ought to be deactivated ... before it corrupts the entire anti-racism agenda of the United Nations," Bayefsky noted.