Speech of Antoine Zanga, dean of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Sovereign Order of Malta
It is a great honour for me to speak today in these places so full of symbols and history on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, to extend to you and to all the Order’s members and volunteers our best wishes for the new year 2020. May it bring you peace and serenity in the performance of your time-honoured missions in favour of the most vulnerable.
Besides the Order’s centuries of existence, I have also reason to be proud of the fact that for the first time a son of Africa has become a doyen of the diplomatic corps. Not only my country, Cameroon, but also the entire African continent is honoured by this.
I also take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to the new members of our diplomatic family. These include their Excellencies the Ambassadors of Chile, Spain, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Morocco, Brazil, Armenia, Georgia and Latvia, who have recently presented their letters of credence.
We are living in a period of history marked by uncertainties about the future of the world, because of the so-called existential risks that are deteriorating living conditions, and especially of the weakest sections of the population. Natural disasters wreak havoc; the ongoing conflicts and hotbeds of tension threaten international peace and security; blind economic policies accentuate social divisions; climate change is becoming more worrisome, with visible consequences in all countries; the food crisis continues in many developing countries; religious extremism continues to grow, the fight for reducing poverty is far from being won; pandemics persist despite serious and concerted efforts. All of this increases precariousness and causes greater and greater displacements of populations.
In this pessimistic picture, the Order of Malta’s charitable action is a point of reference for our countries and for humanitarian organizations. With you, we can still hope that a system of solidarity can enable a harmonious development of the world. The diplomatic community present here is a privileged witness to your permanent deployment in every corner of the world to help victims and the marginalized.
In brief, and from an operational perspective, these are some of the initiatives set up to help displaced people, estimated at 70 million in 2019.
In the regions of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East that have been plagued by war, floods, earthquakes, epidemics or drought, you have provided assistance through healthcare programmes.
You have also used mobile clinics to reach hostile or remote areas, particularly in the regions bordering Syria.
The assistance provided to victims of the dengue epidemic in Honduras in Central America was decisive, as confirmed by a letter sent to us by that country’s authorities.
There are many initiatives for assisting the elderly, the disabled, the homeless and minorities such as the Roma in Eastern Europe and the Yazidis in Iraq. You offer protection and support along the main migration routes to Europe.
In 2019, some 1,000 health centres run by the Order of Malta provided healthcare, psychological support, basic necessities, meals and hot drinks, as well as access to showers and laundries for people who are homeless or living in poverty.
In the diplomatic arena, you have made increasingly important commitments, such as active participation in drafting the Global Compact on Migration, initiated by the United Nations. Also notable is your involvement in the fight against human trafficking (such as the sexual exploitation of young women in West Africa) through raising international awareness and developing partnerships with public and private actors.
Intercultural and interreligious dialogue has not been neglected and you are committed to encouraging it, based on the values of solidarity, listening and mutual enrichment.
After your first official visit to the historic state of Cameroon in 2018, you took your pilgrim staff to consolidate the Order’s diplomatic network, promoting issues that are at the heart of its commitment and facilitating interventions through the signature of cooperation agreements. Whether in Slovenia, Germany or Bulgaria, or with the foreign personalities received at the Grand Magistry, you have always advocated dialogue, solidarity, mutual respect and acceptance. At UNESCO, where you addressed the 40th Session of the General Conference, you reaffirmed the Order’s commitment to remain “faithful to its vocation and its mission of bearing witness to the faith and serving the poor and sick, a mission carried out since its foundation in Jerusalem in the 11th century”.
The Order’s action has achieved sustainability and we renew our respective countries’ commitment to give you permanent support because, by providing relevant responses to the requirements of the most disadvantaged, you embody humanity’s noblest and deepest aspirations.
Allow me once again, on behalf of the entire diplomatic family gathered here and on behalf of our respective countries, to reiterate to you and to the members, employees and volunteers of the Order, the most sincere wishes of happiness, health, prosperity and success in the performance of your noble and inspiring mission in the service of a better world.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Rome, 10 January 2020
Ambassador of Cameroon
Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta.