The Vatican Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva has warned that despite the presence of conflicts in many places around the globe, the world is “taking peace for granted”.

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“In a sense, we seem to have lost a sense of ‘fear of war'”, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič told a side event at Geneva Peace Week November 7.

“On the contrary, we have developed the thinking that war per se is not such a dramatic and terrible event”, he lamented.

“A dramatic example of this reality is given by the pervasive violence represented in war videogames: many children play these violent wargames, where killing and destroying is depicted as a hobby and as a leisure activity”, Jurkovič said.

“Sadly, in these games, the more you kill and the more havoc you wreak, the more you are rewarded”.

The archbishop called such violence in videogames “unacceptable” and called on people of all religions to combat it.

“We need to insist on changing this mentality because it trivializes the suffering of others and does not contribute to the spread of foundational values such as compassion, dialogue, and cooperation”, Jurkovič explained.

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Jurkovič welcomed “as a minimum first step only” recent moves by the Red Cross to work with programmers to insert aspects of humanitarian law into war videogames, so that players can learn the importance of protecting civilians.

But he said religions can and should still do much for the cause of peace, which he said “should never be taken for granted and must constantly be sought”.

“The more religion is manipulated to justify acts of terror and violence, the more religious leaders must be engaged in the overall effort to uphold and live, in word and in action, the true face of religion, which is one of authentic peace and harmony among all peoples”, Jurkovič urged.

The Vatican diplomat firmly rejected media and political narratives of a of a “clash of civilizations” today, and criticised those readings for their “negative take on the role of religions”.

“In today’s globalized world, it seems more important than ever to stress the value of dialogue at all levels: diplomatic, intercultural but also among religious traditions”, the archbishop insisted, pleading with governments to back both traditional statecraft and faith-based “informal diplomacy”.

Strengthening the relationship between faith and politics “makes a strong positive contribution to the overall effort to achieve meaningful peace”, Jurkovič asserted.

Why it matters

In essence, the Vatican representative in Geneva said the contributions religions can make towards peace are threefold: the promotion of the universal “Golden Rule” of conduct; the building of the “culture of encounter and peace based on mutual understanding in the search for the common good”; and education for “harmony and goodwill” among youth.

Jurkovič concluded his talk by stressing “the responsibility of religious leaders – especially in an ever more interconnected world and in the era of social media – to help counter the spread of hatred and violence in the name of religion and to promote more inclusive and peaceful societies”.

“In this way, religion can also be instrumental in ‘preventing’ conflicts!”, the Vatican diplomat said.

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