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Vatican Warns Racism conference of threat to world community

The "ethical foundations of a new world community" are the real challenge faced by the World Conference Against Racism, head of the Vatican delegation to the UN Conference on Racism in Durban has said.

"The fight against racial discrimination is, above all, about how we wish to structure the interaction of individuals and peoples at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium," he said in his address to the conference on Monday.

Archbishop Martin was categorical in his declaration that "racism is a sin".

He said: "It is fundamentally a lie, a concept deliberately invented to create division in humanity. This conference must be about the truth: the truth concerning human dignity, the truth concerning the fundamental unity of the human family."

He stressed that, without "an individual and collective conversion of heart and attitude, the roots of hatred, intolerance and exclusion will not be eliminated, and racism will continue to raise its ugly head again and again in the next century, as it has in the century that has just ended."

The archbishop focused on the same points that the Holy See did during the preparatory meetings for the conference: openness to, and acceptance of, immigrants, refugees and their families; the importance of education and respect for others through appreciation of the family, the first place where a person learns mutual respect; and dialogue between religions.