VATICAN CITY, Jan 1: World peace can only be achieved if individuals' human rights are respected, Pope Benedict said in his first public address of the year, stressing that there can be no excuse for treating people as ''objects''.
Two days after the hanging of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein -- an event the Vatican condemned as ''tragic'' -- the Pope said today that human rights must be put at the heart of the global struggle to end war.
''It is because every human individual, without distinction of race, culture or religion, is created in the image and likeness of God, that he is filled with the same dignity of person,'' Benedict said in a sermon in St. Peter's Basilica.
''That is why he must be respected. No reason can ever justify doing with him whatever one pleases, as if he is an object,'' he said.
Quoting from a message he issued in December to mark the Church's World Day of Peace on January. 1, Benedict said: ''by respecting the person, peace is promoted'' and called on nations to work for a world where ''human rights are respected by all''.
Marking his second New Year since succeeding John Paul II, the 79-year-old Pontiff used his sermon on world peace to single out West Asia.
''How can we not turn our attention, once again, to the awful situation right in the land where Jesus was born? How can we not implore through persistent prayer that the day of peace also arrives in that region as soon as possible?''