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Caritas Australia warns on Iraq War humanitarian disaster

As Australia considers joining a military coalition to enter Iraq if the current United Nations weapons inspection fails, a new report by international aid agency Caritas warns that war must be avoided at all costs.

"The horrendous burden of twelve years of sanctions and trade embargo's has left the people of Iraq highly vulnerable," said Julian Filochowski, the Caritas Internationalis representative who headed a recent delegation to Iraq which produced the report. "In the end, a war on Iraq will be devastating for the Iraqi people."

The Caritas delegation recently visited Iraq to investigate the needs of the Iraqi people and to assist Caritas Iraq to put into place a disaster preparedness plan.

"Caritas Australia has provided $60,000 to assist local partner, Caritas Iraq, to put in place emergency preparedness measures to cope with an emergency situation should there be a strike targeting Iraq," said Jack de Groot, Caritas Australia's National Director.

"Caritas Iraq is working with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society and the Iraq Red Cross to equip 40 medical centres with needed medical equipment that would provide life saving medical care to thousands of injured Iraqi civilians. It is also training 42 doctors and 220 volunteers for emergency and field medical responses," he said.

"Caritas Australia has a long-standing concern about the situation of Iraqi women and children. The Iraqi infrastructure can no longer bear the weight of human need," Mr de Groot said.

Women and children in Iraq continue to suffer from high levels of malnutrition. One in every four children under the age of five is chronically malnourished. The country's health service is inadequate due to the economic sanctions placed on Iraq over the last 12 years.

Caritas Australia

US Bishops question Iraq war morality (14/11/02)
Vatican reasserts opposition to war in Iraq (4/10/02)
Catholic agency worried about 'untold suffering' in Iraq war (20/9/02)
Australian bishops petition PM on Iraq (11/7/02)


As the relics of St. Therese of Lisieux were about to be transferred from Lebanon to Iraq, Catholics in both countries prayed for the intercession of the "Little Flower" in preventing war in the region.

Closing a 10-week pilgrimage of the relics throughout Lebanon on Sunday, Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, prayed that "the urgent and crucial visit of the sacred relics which will be carried to Iraq may drive away the specter of war from Iraq and the whole region."

The exposition of the relics in Lebanon was greeted with crowded liturgies and large processions in which "Christians and Muslims participated side by side," Vatican Radio reported on Tuesday.

The relics visited Australia earlier this year (pictured).

The relics are scheduled to be carried in pilgrimage around Iraq from this week until 28 December, in response to an urgent request by Archbishop Jean Sleiman, head of the Latin-rite Archdiocese of Baghdad.

Catholic News Service


A delegation of Catholic peace campaigners will go to the British Prime Minister's residence later today to pray and present a petition appealing for peace for Iraq and the Middle East.

Support for the Pax Christi Declaration on the Morality and Legality of War against Iraq has grown since the first 5000 were presented to Downing Street in August. A further 4000 signatures will be presented to Mr Tony Blair this afternoon.

"The ordinary people of Iraq have suffered enough," says the letter accompanying the petition. "They should not have to bear the burden of military violence carried out in the name of alleged compliance with UN resolutions, regime change or any political or strategic interest which the UK and the USA are trying to secure."

Independent Catholic News

UK church leaders protest Iraq invasion plans (7/8/02)
Pax Christi UK | Iraq | Prayer for Peace in Iraq and the Middle East

22 Nov 2002