ROME — Speaking at a special U.N. discussion about racism and police brutality, a Vatican official repeated Pope Francis’ recent remarks: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”
Speaking about demonstrations in the United States following the killing of George Floyd by police, Pope Francis also said, “At the same time, we have to recognize that violence is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican’s permanent observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva, shared the pope’s words June 18 as the U.N. Human Rights Council held an “urgent debate on current racially inspired human rights violations, systemic racism, police brutality against people of African descent and violence against peaceful protests.”
“Racial discrimination in all its forms is absolutely intolerable,” Jurkovic told the meeting. “All members of the human family, made in the image and likeness of God are equal in their inherent dignity, regardless of race, nation, sex, origin, culture or religion. States are called to recognize, defend and promote the fundamental human rights of each person.”
Michelle Bachelet, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, introduced the discussion by noting that “since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last month, a wave of massive protests has surged forward — not only across every state in the United States, but also in dozens of countries in Europe and all around the world.”
Floyd’s death, an “act of gratuitous brutality,” she said, “has come to symbolize the systemic racism that harms millions of people of African descent — causing pervasive, daily, lifelong, generational and too often, lethal harm.”
The killing of Floyd, an African American, at the hands of a white officer, Bachelet said, “has become emblematic of the excessive use of disproportionate force by law enforcement against people of African descent, against people of color and against indigenous peoples and racial and ethnic minorities in many countries across the globe.”
While denouncing the violence associated with some of the protests and decrying “the excessive use of force against protesters by police” in some instances, she urged governments around the world to use the occasion to enact reforms in police use-of-force policies and to promote efforts to end racism and inequality in their societies.
“We need schools and universities that are free of bias; economies that give truly equal opportunities and fair treatment to all; political institutions that are more responsive and inclusive; justice systems which are truly just,” she said.
“Time is of the essence,” Bachelet said. “Patience has run out.”