VATICAN CITY, APR. 29, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II once again denounced the economic embargo imposed on Iraq, which continues to cost civilian lives.
The Pontiff made his appeal Saturday when he received Abdul-Amir Al-Anbari, Baghdad´s new ambassador to the Vatican. The envoy in the past has been his country´s ambassador to the United Nations, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“I wish you to know of my esteem for the Iraqi people, whom I remember daily in my prayer, especially in light of the continuing difficulties that they face,” the Holy Father said, when he welcomed the diplomat.
“As the embargo in your country continues to claim victims,” the Pope added, “I renew my appeal to the international community that innocent people should not be made to pay the consequences of a destructive war whose effects are still being felt by those who are weakest and most vulnerable.”
Saddam Hussein´s administration, and the economic embargo imposed on the country following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have cost the lives of at least 4,500 children under age 5 every month, according to a UNICEF report.
At the same time, the number of children begging on the streets has increased, something that was unknown 10 years ago.
The embargo has raised serious questions, even among U.N. representatives in the country. “What was acceptable 10 years ago, no longer is,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Hans von Sponeck said, after handing in his resignation. “This embargo is a clear violation of human rights.”
The Pope also delivered a vigorous address in defense of human rights. The Holy See, he said, sees as one of its chief duties that of reminding public opinion that “no authority, no political program, and no ideology is entitled to reduce human beings to what they can do or produce.”
John Paul II continued: “The inalienable rights and personal dignity of every human being must be upheld; the transcendent dimension of the human person must be defended.”
Before bidding the ambassador farewell, the Holy Father addressed Iraqi Catholics. “In this context, my thoughts turn naturally to the members of the Iraqi Catholic community,” he said. “Together with their Muslim countrymen, Iraqi Christians wish to work for unity and harmony.”
“In Iraq, as in the world at large, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than ever,” he added. “Through such dialogue, believers will be enabled to respond positively to the call to respect one another, to rise above all discrimination, and to serve the common good in a spirit of brotherhood and understanding. In like manner, it is the obligation of every government to ensure that the equality of all citizens before the law is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly.”
In his salute to the Pope, the Iraqi ambassador said that “geographically, the Vatican might be one of the smallest states, but morally and religiously it is one of the greatest.”
The envoy added: “The role of the Holy See is universal, and is directed to protect not only Catholics but the whole of humanity.”