National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Pope Francis calls landmines 'weapons of cowards'

  • Petty Officer 1st Class Leon Ullel excavates an area to stack anti-tank and anti-personnel land mines for destruction at a demolition site at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by United States Navy)
 |  NCR Today

Calling landmines “the weapons of cowards,” Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with those trying to ban them from the earth and especially with victims of such weapons.

His statement came at the end of the Third Review Conference of the International Landmine treaty, a process more formally known as the Ottawa Convention.

The treaty was written up in 1994 and to date 161 nations have signed. The United States has resisted signing the treaty, but announced at the meeting it would no longer add to its landmine stockpile, with an eye to signing the treaty one day.

Anti-landmine advocates have long criticized the U.S. for holding on to its landmines, viewed by many as an indiscriminate weapon, and one that lingers for decades after wars end. .

The treaty bans the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of these anti-personnel mines and calls on signatory nations to help find and destroy them.

October-24,-2014-cover_web.jpgGet this special NCR 50th anniversary offer! Subscribe to NCR by Nov. 15 and get a 50th anniversary issue. This special issue is available exclusively to subscribers. Learn more.

Some estimates put the current number of landmines, found in more than 70 nations, at over 10 million. Explosions were killing some 10,000 to 15,000 annually in the 1990s. But as awareness has grown and landmine removal efforts have continued this number has fallen to around 4,000 deaths each year, many of these being children.

Francis, in condemning landmine use, said he felt particularly connected with victims of these devices, according to a Vatican statement.

The Landmine Conference, held in Maputo, Mozambique from June23 to 27, saw participation of over 1,000 representatives of states and international and non-governmental organizations. 

The pope’s message was sent by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. In it, Francis described landmines as “the weapons of cowards,” pointing out that the wounds inflicted by these weapons “remind us that the use of weapons in general represent a defeat for all.”

The Vatican was among the early supporters and signers of the treaty.

Francis praised those who attended the conference for their capacity to make binding decisions that will change the daily life of “so many families, communities, regions and countries who continue to live every day in fear of landmines, in insecurity and poverty”.

Each person, Francis said, wants to live in peace, the opposite of fear. “Anti-personnel mines,” he said, “are subtle because they prolong war and nurture fear even when conflict has ended”.

The pope urged all nations “to preserve the integrity of the [Landmine] convention, to develop and implement it as closely and quickly as possible.”

He called for a world in which “no child should live in fear of landmines!” adding he hopes the treaty might represent a model for other treaties, “in particular for nuclear weapons and other weapons that should not exist”.

 “What is the meaning of peace, security and stability if our societies, our communities and our families live in constant fear and destructive hatred?”  he asked in his statement.

“Let us give space to reconciliation, hope, and love that are expressed in the commitment for common good, in international cooperation to help the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, in the implementation of policies based on our common dignity”.

Related story: U.S. Inches foward in support of Landmine Treaty.

 

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

October 10-23, 2014

10-10-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.