BAKU, Azerbaijan, SEPT. 6, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The papal nuncio in the Caucasus urged the establishment of an international and interreligious pact against terrorism, in the wake of the deadly school seizure in Beslan, Russia.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, said that “an international pact and an interreligious agreement between the creeds present in the Caucasus region” are necessary to “avoid this area becoming the detonator of larger conflicts.”
Commenting on the intervention of the Russian special-security forces in the school, Archbishop Gugerotti told the Italian episcopate’s SIR service of his “dismay over the use of children as human shields by the terrorists.”
“The Muslim presence in the Caucasus is very strong and the growth of fundamentalism is a real danger,” he said Friday.
During the terrorist attack, the nuncio was in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, where he met with key Islamic leaders in the region.
“We are trying to work in the closest possible way so that this conflict does not degenerate into a religious conflict, as many would have one believe,” the nuncio said.
“The Muslim leaders in the Caucasus are very open and tolerant and they firmly condemn these actions, such as the kidnapping of children in a school,” he added.
“It is necessary to cultivate this opening and this reciprocal respect without falling into the clutches of those who wish to repeat in the Caucasus what happened in the Balkans,” he said.
“If phenomena such as these spread, not only the Caucasus will be in danger, as it must not be forgotten that it is the door to Europe,” he stressed. “To strike children as happened in Ossetia shows that terrorism has no limits.”
Hence the need for an international and interreligious agreement against terrorism, Archbishop Gugerotti said. “If we do not succeed in the Caucasus, we will become the place of detonation and not of peaceful solution.”