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Human beings lead their lives mediated by intelligence and will; they do not exist only physically. There is something in them much richer and more elevated, a spiritual vitality in consciousness and in love. They are thus in some ways a universe unto themselves, a microcosm in which the larger universe can be entirely contained by means of consciousness; through love they may give themselves freely to others, as if the others were themselves. It is not possible to find the equivalent of this relationship in the entire physical universe.

-- Jacques Maritain

We are all persons and human life is a universal value.

To guarantee life and to defend it in its dignity is the political responsibility that the international community, together with each one of us, is called to exercise in order to achieve the common good.

Today in the world the dignity of human life is violated. There are many ways in which this happens, from war to poverty, from the “knowledge gap” benefiting some to the monopolistic power of a few. We feel the duty to belong to a family, the human family, that stretches across national borders and economic logic.

We believe that all are truly responsible for all, and that we cannot remain indifferent in the face of the clamorous differences that exist in the lives of the people of our planet. We affirm that every human being is a resource, a precious good for others, who in turn asks to be accompanied and helped on the path towards complete fulfillment. No person may be considered simply a passive economic subject whose value is measured by the capacity to consume.

We are here.

We are here to recall that you are us. You, the responsible leaders of our nations, are our representatives. You have a great responsibility. You are not the government of the world, but what you decide inevitably has repercussions on many, also those outside the borders of our nations.

We are here because we too have a dream: We do not wish any longer to be the rich who see the poor as objects of help. We want to be citizens of the world and of a community of solidarity that gives to everyone the same right to have the necessities of life, and that offers opportunity.

We are here because we want to realize our dream.

For this reason we present to you, who are our representatives, requests that we see as a point of departure so that every person, today and tomorrow, can live in authentic freedom, solidarity and dignity.

The night


The dignity of human life is offended on our planet by conflicts that draw in vulnerable populations. Women and men, children, adults and the elderly, in uniform or in civilian dress, are often unconscious actors in scripts written, more or less intentionally, by other hands, in other languages and in other places. We urge that you, our representatives, labor with transparency and determination for:
  • Abolition of war as an instrument for the solution of conflicts. Commit yourself as states to not using force for the resolution of controversies, whether internal or international.
  • Activation of a credible and authentic process of reform in the United Nations that reinforces its democratic structures, its authority and its efficiency, in particular in its responsibility to be the principle actor in favor of peace in the world.
  • A priority to local approaches, valuing the contributions of non-governmental organizations, and confronting all conflicts, even those that are internal, when they violate the liberty of civilian populations.
  • Authentic efforts to end the arms trade, starting with open information about all the mechanisms of sales and purchase. There must be no public funding given to those who produce and sell arms.
  • No wasting of money. We do not want resources to be thrown away on useless defense projects, such as a “space shield,” but utilized for eliminating the causes that generate conflicts, above all poverty.


The burden of external debt of the countries of the south compromises the dignity of human life of millions of persons. Precious and scarce financial resources are utilized by impoverished countries for paying their creditors, who are the countries of the north – that is, us! On the occasion of the Jubilee, we asked you for courageous actions. You heard us only in part. It horrifies us to think that money that we are still collecting, however much it may have been reduced from previous years, is subtracted from efforts to give houses, food, medicines and schooling to persons who for us are just like ourselves.

Therefore we ask again, with emphasis, for:

  • Cancellation of all debt accumulated up to June 19, 1999, the date of the grand manifestation at Cologne. In your language, this means moving the date that divides debt that may be cancelled from debt that cannot be cancelled (the “cut off date”).
  • A change in the parameters for international initiatives for the most gravely impoverished countries. We want fundamental goods and services to be assured in impoverished nations for all citizens. Only the money that remains after these expenses may be utilized for paying debt.
  • An agreement with indebted countries and representatives of civil society in the south and the north for the institution of a “Fair and Transparent Process of International Arbitration,” to evaluate in terms of justice the proper amount of debt in the various nations. The remission of debt is a question of justice before it is a question of solidarity.


On our planet the dignity of human life is offended by the scandalous difference between life in rich countries and in poor.

One child in twenty in Africa dies before reaching the age of five. One child in two does not go to school.

It is a horrifying situation, one for which we, and you, are also responsible. We commit ourselves to new lifestyles, more just and more responsible, but at the same time, so that you represent our voice, we ask that you commit our nations to:

  • Honor quickly the commitment, given lip service but never maintained, to finance development aid with 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product of our countries. Today the average is less than half of this standard.
  • Promote and reinforce, in international organizations, the use of programs of poverty reduction that feature an authentic co-involvement of civil society.
  • Favor with support, both financial and technical, the action of impoverished nations so that they may guarantee to their entire population the right to health care and education.

A light that rises

To construct the future: globalize solidarity and responsibility

The dignity of life on our planet, in the north as well as the south, can be safeguarded only through a strong, shared and respected system of rules, in which the strongest do not have greater rights, but the most weak. This is not what happens today in the world. You are our representatives. We therefore ask you not to hide behind facile justifications, but to respond with transparency to these requests.

The Market between liberty and responsibility

  • We ask that a system of rules in international commerce be created that allows all countries, in particular the most impoverished, to offer on the market their goods at an equal price, abolishing barriers, starting with the nations of the G-8. For food products, a mechanism of regulation is needed for production and distribution that defines production quotas for the nations and guarantees price stability.
  • We want a genuinely free market, in which all are free to buy knowing with precision what is being offered to them, and in which all are given possibilities to sell their products. This is not what happens today.
  • We want an immediate and concrete commitment to denounce “fiscal paradises.” Commit yourselves in the various international organizations for the definition and publication of lists of countries that permit the recycling of dirty money and that offer fiscal shelter for savage acts of speculation.
  • We want, starting with our countries, a tax on international currency transactions (like the Tobin Tax) that would render speculative international transfers of money costly, and that would offer resources for financing development.

Work as an instrument for the dignity of human life

  • We want international legislation that impedes the exploitation of persons in the workplace to be applied, and improved. A lower and more competitive cost of labor does not have to mean humiliation.

The environment must be global

  • We ask that the Kyoto Accords be confirmed immediately, and that future strategies to reinforce the defense of creation be identified in a transparent way.

Economic liberty and democracy

  • We want a free economy in which positions of monopoly are impeded, such as those assumed by some multi-national corporations capable of changing the market and hiding information on their activities.
  • In the same way we ask that free information be guaranteed. The countries of the G-8 must promote laws that guarantee at the national and international levels a plurality of media and of publishers, prohibiting monopolies, in order to preserve responsible liberty for all citizens.
  • We request transparent information also about the characteristics of food products in general and, in particularly, of genetically modified organisms.

Science for all

  • We ask that public research in the area of health be well financed, in order to make possible the production of pharmaceuticals for the diseases spread among the poorest populations.
  • In particualr we ask the efforts be multiplied to render the drugs for the care of AIDS accessible to all who are infected, in Africa and everywhere, beginning with pregnant women before and after birth.
  • We want rules that permit the production and distribution of medicines at costs that are sustainable for the most impoverished populations. This means confronting the question of reform of intellectual property laws.

At Tor Vergata we listened to the words of the Pope:

“Dear friends, I see in you the ‘sentinels of the morning’ (Isaiah 21:11-12), at this dawn of the third millennium. In the course of the century that is dying, youth such as yourselves were convoked in mass rallies to learn to hate, were sent to fight one against the other. Today you are convoked here in order to affirm that in the new century you will not allow yourselves to be instruments of violence or destruction; you will defend peace, paying the price in person if necessary. You will not resign yourselves to a world in which other human beings die of hunger, remain illiterate, or lack work. You will defend life in every moment of its earthly development, and you will try with all your energy to make this land ever more habitable for all.”

This is exactly what we want to do.

National Catholic Reporter, Posted July 25, 2001