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Pope endorses world ban on landmines

In a message delivered yesterday to an international landmines conference in Nairobi, Pope John Paul II challenged all nations to join in the Ottawa Convention, which was adopted in 1997 with the aim of the complete elimination of landmines.

Catholic World News reports that the Holy Father called for "the destruction of land mine stockpiles" and new efforts to provide help for the victims of the anti-personnel mines, "the great majority of whom are innocent people, who are mutilated or killed."

The Pope's message, which was delivered by Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, concluded with "a fervent appeal for the universalization of the Ottawa Convention, inviting the nations who hesitate to adhere to it, to join the side of peace by definitively neutralising those engines of death."

The Ottawa Convention has led to the destruction of 17 million landmines, and efforts to disarm millions of mines that have already been placed in war zones. The treaty has been signed and ratified by 146 nations including Australia but not including the US.

This week's meeting in Nairobi has brought together UN officials with representatives of the 143 countries that have signed the pact. Some 50 nations, including several major world powers, have not endorsed the Ottawa Convention. Among them, those nations are believed to hold more than 180 million landmines in their stockpiles. Those nations include the US, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and South Korea.

Bowing to international pressure, the US has contributed to the effort to clear up existing mine fields, and has not used landmines during the recent military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to international activists, only four countries-- Russia, Burma, Nepal, and Georgia-- are still actively placing anti-personnel mines.

The International Red Cross estimates that a dozen years ago, 2,000 people were killed or wounded every month by landmines. That figure has declined because of the campaign to remove mines, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Cambodia. But mines still reportedly claim 15,000 victims worldwide each year.

Pope endorses world ban on landmines (Catholic World News 2/12/04)

Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction (Ottawa 18/9/97)
International Campaign to Ban Landmines | The Treaty
Clearing Landmines - AusAID
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Wheelchairs for Kids

US Bishops regret Bush U-turn on landmines ban (CathNews 4/3/04)
Nun spells out Australia's landmines obligations (CathNews 10/3/03)
Mining mercy (Australian Catholics Spring 2004)
When one small step can shatter your body (OzSpirit)

Conference participants cite toll of landmines (Catholic World News 2/12/04)
Pope calls for elimination of landmine stockpiles, care for reintegration of victims (Catholic News Agency 2/12/04)
Pope, at audience, says those in power must rule with justice (Catholic News Service 1/12/04)
Church wants to serve in promoting human dignity, says Pope (Catholic News Agency 2/12/04)
Pope John Paul II: "God does not forget one single tear" (Catholic News Agency 2/12/04)
Pope calls on US and others to adhere to landmine convention (Ekklesia 2/12/04)
The Pope's teaching at the Wednesday Audience: "As the Lord rules the world in truth and justice (cf. Ps. 35:7), likewise the king, his visible representative on earth according to the Biblical perspective, must imitate God's actions. (Fides 1/12/04)
To Violate Rights of Poor Is Act Against God, Warns Pope (Zenit 1/12/04)

3 Dec 2004