Pope John Paul II has called for the destruction of all landmine stockpiles. His view were expressed in a letter to Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, permanent representative of Austria to the UN Organizations in Geneva and president of the First Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction, being held in Nairobi, Kenya. The Message, written in French, was read yesterday, by Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, and head of the Holy See delegation. The Pope began by praising the action being undertaken "to eradicate in a definitive manner this terrible scourge of modern times. ... Five years after entering into force, this Convention has become for the ratifying countries a fundamental and inescapable norm that reinforces the strict application of international humanitarian law and is a tangible proof of solidarity between nations and peoples." He stressed that "the Holy See, who was among the first to ratify this convention, intends to contribute in an active way to seeing to its implementation, in a sincere and constructive dialogue with the other signatory States. ... The Holy See has launched a campaign to sensitize local Churches to the problem of anti-personnel landmines, to spread information on this grave problem," and is asking for involvement and for "prayers for the victims of landmines and for the success of this conference." Most important, said the Holy Father, is "the destruction of landmine stockpiles" and "the socio-economic reintegration of victims," the great majority of whom are innocent people, who are mutilated or killed. There must also be "bilateral and multilateral cooperation" between countries in order to make the correct decisions to eradicate 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." The Holy Father said victims of landmines deserve special attention, even after stockpiles are reduced or eliminated. The international community must allot both financial and human resources to helping people become the protagonists of their own development, to rehabilitating the handicapped, and to reintegrating victims of mines into society." He closed 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 neutralizing these engines of death." Source: VIS
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