Speech at the Conference on The Power of Words –
The Role of Religion, Media, and Policy in Countering Hate Speech
Miguel Ángel Cardinal Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ
30-31 October 2019
I read the recent document (Concept Note) prepared for this Conference and our time together. How well it pinpoints the particular areas where hatred and the damaging actions resulting from such “hate speech” launched against groups different than our own are evident. We recognize, as the document depicts, “Religious and sectarian identity … has been used to justify hate speech against certain groups and individuals”. We say in the preparatory document that, “hate speech is normally defined as any kind of communication in speech, writing or behavior that denigrates a person or group on the basis of who they are in terms of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race or other key identity factor.” How divided we have become in this modern era where the media is so active on a world stage turning words into weapons!
Given the notable speakers here present who will speak on the important and large topic of “hate speech”, I feel my role is to offer a counterpoint, to look at not so much our divisions as our “connections”. I offer the reality of our being a human family and call to our common consideration the recent document written by the Grand Iman of Al Azhar and Pope Francis on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”. What better tool in our hands than our common humanity where we have so much in common in contrast to the little that is superficially different.
As has been said by many, Pope Francis has clearly demonstrated his desire to promote and pursue interreligious dialogue by naming myself and then Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald to become Cardinals. Pope Francis said at the ceremony where we were created as Cardinals, “Do we have a lively awareness of this compassion that God feels for us? It is not something optional…No, it is essential. … Concretely: am I compassionate towards this or that brother or sister…? … Or do I constantly tear them down by my attitude of condemnation, of indifference, of looking the other way and actually washing my hands of it?” (Homily, Ordinary Public Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals, October 6, 2019) This awareness is the underpinning of our desire to work together to “counter hate speech and promote peaceful co-existence” as is the reason for our gathering here today to discuss.
In the months since the signing of the document on Human Fraternity in Abu Dhabi, I have reflected on our responsibility and work at KAICIID, recognizing the great grace given to the work of interreligious collaboration which this Document has given us with our efforts towards the common good. How different is our discussion of this conference’s theme, Working Together to Counter Hate Speech and to Promote Peaceful – The Role of Religion, Media, and Policy in Countering Hate Speech, in the light of the awareness of our Human Fraternity. Fraternity recognizes our common familial roots, not only our Common Citizenship. What concerns us today as we meet and speak on these topics is how we can witness to and effect a global awareness of our common bonds as the human family. The document in the introduction states, “Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.” In this statement there is no room for hate speech! Our witness as believers to the reality of our human fraternity, is one of the most powerful statements to counter the media’s hate-filled words.
With the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, we gain a renewed enthusiasm and yes, hope for the work of KAICIID in its mission as stated in the Concept Note for the Conference for today, “to enhance dialogue between people of different faiths and cultures, not just as a pathway to mutual understanding, but as a means of preventing religion being used as a vehicle for the marginalisation of others and even violence.” We now have a concrete shared base in this commitment written by the Grand Imam of al Azahar and the Pope and witnessed by religious leaders from many religions and nations, for our outreach to other religious leaders, governments and the peoples of our globe. At KAICIID we have experienced our share of trials and misunderstandings as we have grown as an organization and an effective member of the world community striving for peaceful religious relations. But we have also known a joy in our common mission and success in our outreaches.
World Peace through Human Fraternity is not some idealistic dream but a reality that has emerged, taken hold in concrete ways, in events such as this, fostering dialogue and understanding. The very organization of KAICIID is a living example of the efforts to counter hate speech, not only through the media, but by the very experience of working together to better relations and understanding between religions.
Let me conclude today by offering the words of Pope Francis which he spoke prior to the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity when he was in Abu Dhabi: “There is no alternative: we will either build the future together or there will not be a future. Religions, in particular, cannot renounce the urgent task of building bridges between peoples and cultures. The time has come when religions should more actively exert themselves, with courage and audacity, and without pretense, to help the human family deepen the capacity for reconciliation, the vision of hope and the concrete paths of peace.” (Address of Pope Francis at the Global Conference of Human Fraternity, Founder’s Memorial Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019) This is why KAICIID was established. This is how we as an organization and individually as its members, are missioned together into the future.
We recognize that “…hate speech tries to suggest that the person or group is in some way inferior and should be excluded or discriminated against” (Concept Note for the Conference), but I encourage us to move forward, confident that our common Human Fraternity changes our way of being and counters such shallow words as we encourage the deeper bonds of family given us all by the Creator.