Pope Hails Destruction of Land Mines in Colombia

Move Is in Line With Ottawa Convention

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II expressed his satisfaction to Colombian authorities for the destruction of the last 6,814 land mines stockpiled by the country.

The mines were destroyed Sunday at the military base of Ponedera, in the department of the Atlantic, in compliance with the 1997 Ottawa Convention.

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez attended the symbolic act, as did Queen Noor of Jordan, who heads the Landmine Survivors Network.

In a message on behalf of the Pope, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano expressed to the Colombian authorities the «Holy See’s appreciation for the Day of Sensitization of Public Opinion Against the Use of Antipersonnel Mines.»

«His Holiness John Paul II has followed with great interest the international political process which has produced important results in view of the total elimination of these terrible weapons, which kill, mutilate or wound people indiscriminately and hinder the development of areas deteriorated by the conflicts,» the message stated.

«Proof of such interest is the Holy See’s active participation in the writing, initiating and implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines and the ratification of that juridical instrument» on Dec. 4, 1997, Cardinal Sodano said.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, the Holy See wished «to call attention to the humanitarian principles called to safeguard the life and dignity of the human person» and «on the importance of assistance for the care and rehabilitation of the victims and their subsequent social and economic reintegration,» he continued.

Cardinal Sodano also stressed the importance of «fostering projects of economic and social development — which will restore de-mined lands to their natural or productive end — and, very especially, of effective measures that will prohibit forever the production, consumption and use of these instruments of death, which strike people indiscriminately.»

«These actions, as the Pope has pointed out, represent ‘a victory of the culture of life over the culture of death,'» the cardinal said. When these actions are «carried out effectively, people will not have to fear the threats of destruction and death implied by land mines.»

Aware of the long road still ahead «to liberate humanity definitively from these terrible devices,» the Pope encourages the Colombian authorities in their effort and expresses his hope that the initiative «will serve as an example for other countries living in similar situations.»

According to Cardinal Sodano, the Day of Sensitization promoted by the Colombian authorities is taking place «at an especially opportune moment,» given that from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, the first conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, to examine the Ottawa Convention «for the purpose of reinforcing and giving new impetus to the process of struggle against land mines.»

The destruction of the mines last Sunday, in compliance with the Ottawa Convention — endorsed by more than 140 countries — «on the prohibition of the use, storage, production, and transfer of antipersonnel mines, and on their destruction,» was complemented by the elimination of more than 18,000 mines that the Colombian Public Force had to protect high risk installations and military bases from terrorist attacks.

Every day, two Colombians are victims of these mines — either dying or remaining disabled.

Over the past 14 years, 1,934 Colombians, almost all members of the Public Force, have been victims of antipersonnel mines.

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