Pope Urges Total Destruction of Land-Mine Stockpiles

In Message to Nairobi Conference

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II made an impassioned plea in a message to an international summit on land mines, urging all nations to eliminate definitively these lethal weapons.

“This must end!” the Pope urged in his message, which was read at the first review-conference of the Ottawa Convention, which is aimed at eliminating antipersonnel mines. The five-day conference is being held in Nairobi, Kenya, through Friday.

Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and head of the Holy See delegation, read the Holy Father’s message to the gathering.

The message, addressed to Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations in Geneva and president of the conference, recalls that the Holy See was one of the first to ratify the Ottawa Convention.

In view of this conference, the Holy See “launched a campaign to sensitize local Churches to the problem of antipersonnel landmines, to spread information about this grave problem” and is asking for involvement and “prayers for the victims of land mines and for the success of this conference,” the Pope said.

Above all, John Paul II advocated “the destruction of land-mine stockpiles” and “the socioeconomic reintegration of victims,” the great majority of whom are innocent people, who are mutilated.

Many other victims are killed by the devices. The mines also “gravely damage the economy of developing countries, depriving them of numerous mined agricultural lands, essential for the survival of these nations,” the Holy Father stressed. “This must end!”

In his letter, the Pontiff suggests that rich countries help poor countries in the high cost of eliminating land mines.

“When states unite, in a climate of understanding, mutual respect and cooperation, to oppose a culture of death and to build confidently a culture of life, it is the cause of peace that advances in the consciences of people and all of mankind,” he said.

“When multilateral negotiation and international cooperation succeed in adopting concrete measures that allow peoples to live in security and dignity, among whom are numerous children, humanity triumphs,” he continued.

Finally, the Pope offered the support of the Catholic Church to non-governmental organizations, in particular, the International Campaign to Band Landmines, to sensitize public opinion about the “dangers of antipersonnel mines”; the “rehabilitation of handicapped people” who are victims of the mines; the need for “psychological support”; for the reintegration of victims in society; and for “education in peace.”

At the opening of the conference, Ethiopia announced that it had completed the ratification of the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use and production of land mines, and has become the 144th state to be a party to the treaty.

The convention, signed in 1997, came into force in 1999. Some countries with large stockpiles of mines, such as China, Russia and the United States, have not ratified the treaty.

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