Conditions Governing Military Intervention in Iraq

According to Vatican Secretary for Relations with States

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ROME, SEPT. 10, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- The decision to launch a military operation against Iraq must be made at the United Nations, and only after all options are exhausted, says Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, in this interview.

Q: John Paul II described Sept. 11 as «a dark day in the history of humanity.» A year later, has a spark of light been lit?

Archbishop Tauran: That abominable act brought about universal condemnation of terrorism; it has stimulated jurists to define terrorism better, and has led those responsible for societies to examine the causes of this inhuman violence.

Moreover, both the Jan. 24 meeting in Assisi, as well as the «Peoples and Religions» conference in Palermo a few days ago, highlighted that religion can never justify terrorism and that all believers have a common task: to disarm hatred.

Given that good can always come from evil, I think it is something very positive that these acts of blind violence and indescribable pain have been unanimously condemned. In particular, in reading the statements of so many bishops, I observe that a fundamental truth has been emphasized, which all believers profess and, in particular, Jews, Christians and Muslims: human life is sacred; it comes from God, Creator of all things; and only God has a right over it.

Moreover, it has been proclaimed, and not just in churches but everywhere, that all violence is contrary to the law of God and that problems can only be solved with dialogue, law and love. In this way, a world is built in which men can live in peace and justice. There is no other way.

Q: Meanwhile, however, the clouds of war are gathering over Iraq. What is the Holy See’s position?

Archbishop Tauran: Always to favor dialogue — never to isolate a country or a government, so that it can insist on duty with greater efficacy from the one who has transgressed the rules of international law.

Obviously, evil cannot be combated with another evil, adding evil to evil. If the international community, inspired by international law and by the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, considers recourse to force opportune and proportionate, this should take place with a decision in the framework of the United Nations, after having studied the consequences for the Iraqi civilian population, as well as the repercussions that it might have on the countries of the region and on world stability.

Otherwise, only the law of the most powerful would prevail. It is possible to question legitimately if the type of operation being contemplated is an adequate means to make authentic peace flower.

Q: The wound in the Middle East is still open. In your opinion, what are the basic conditions to arrive at a stable peace?

Archbishop Tauran: First of all, that arms be silenced. Then, that one and all respect the other and his legitimate aspirations; that all apply the rules of international law; that the Occupied Territories be evacuated; and that a special statute be elaborated, guaranteed internationally, to safeguard the unique character of the holy places of the three religions in Jerusalem.

Then the international community should be more present on the site, to help the contenders look at, and speak to, one another.

Q: This year, the Pope has insisted a lot on the condemnation of terrorism and the rejection of all connivance of religion with violence. What effect have his teachings had on world public opinion?

Archbishop Tauran: I believe that the Pope’s numerous appeals in this connection have had the great merit of helping all to understand that there cannot be a theology of terror, that some extremist groups inspired by Islam cannot be confused with authentic Muslims.

Many initiatives and statements have repeated that there is solidarity in faith among Jews, Christians and Muslims, which must be the source of reconciliation for all societies.

Q: And, what effect has it had on governments?

Archbishop Tauran: Many heads of state who have visited the Vatican have expressed satisfaction over the fact that the Holy See alerted before any possible confusion and has wisely directed an independent word to all.

Many have appreciated particularly what the Pope said to the international community last Jan. 10: «To kill in the name of God is a blasphemy and perversion of religion, and I repeat this morning what I said in my message of Jan. 1: ‘It is a profanation of religion to proclaim oneself a terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to man in his name. Terrorist violence is contrary to faith in God the Creator of man; in God who cares for him and loves him.'»

Q: Have the Holy See’s relations with the Muslim world changed since Sept. 11?

Archbishop Tauran: I think that at present it is clear that to combat terrorism does not mean to combat Islam. The U.S. bishops, who are in contact with a numerous community of the Islamic religion, were wise in affirming it immediately after Sept. 11. The Pope and his collaborators have repeated it on many occasions.

In this connection, I would like to recall what His Holiness said to the representatives of the world of culture in Kazakhstan, on Sept. 24, 2001: «I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s respect for Islam, authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, that is in solidarity with the needy. Calling to mind the errors of the past, including the recent past, all believers must join forces so that God will never be hostage to the ambitions of men. Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God and disfigure the authentic image of man.»

Q: In sum, do you think that terrorism has been combated effectively over these 12 months, or is there something that remains to be done?

Archbishop Tauran: What is important is that at present no responsible politicians worthy of this name and no religious leader can justify terrorism, regardless of the place where terrorism wishes to perpetrate its work of death. This is already in itself a very important result.

Those who are culpable, of course, must be punished and placed in a situation where they cannot cause harm. But we must pay attention not to confuse justice with vengeance and must avoid that whole populations pay for the cruelties of those responsible for the attacks. But much still remains to be done.

The Holy Father recalled this specifically last Saturday: to combat situations of violence and inequality among peoples, to put an end to wars that remain to be resolved, to inculcate in young generations a culture of legality and tolerance. The media, in particular, must pay attention and not publish images that incite mistrust, hatred, abuse.

And, finally, the way in which the history of religion is taught in schools is extremely important: if we wish the situation not to be as it was before Sept. 11, it is indispensable to promote a culture of reciprocal respect.

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