Liberia crisis: Caritas writes to President Bush

 Duncan MacLaren, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis has sent the following letter to President George W Bush. Dear Mr President, Re: Call for decisive action to avoid further chaos and bloodshed in Liberia Caritas Internationalis, a Confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service agencies throughout the world, including three members in the United States (CRS, Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development), supports the immediate deployment of troops within Liberia and urges the United States with its close ties to the country to intervene. Caritas Liberia will soon be backed up by an international team from our Confederation to assist with the humanitarian relief effort to address the consequences of the current violence but for that effort to be fully effective, we need peace. It is thought that only the commitment of US troops on the ground, not just for logistical purposes, is the only way to secure a lasting peace. We urge you, within the context of a UN resolution giving a mandate to you, to commit US troops now to avoid further chaos and bloodshed in Liberia The Catholic Archbishop of Monrovia and Chairman of Caritas Liberia, Michael Francis, has stressed that not a moment should be lost in sending in international forces, especially those from the US or the European Union, and lamented the fact that his people were being slaughtered while the international community prevaricated. As you are only too aware, hunger is now widespread and the danger of a cholera epidemic is looming. International forces must support the outcome of the ongoing Ghana peace process, which should include a swift and complete disarmament, the demobilisation of warring parties and the establishment of an interim government of national unity. The international community must also be prepared to accompany and support Liberia, including the provision of peacekeeping forces, for the medium to long term. Even when peacekeeping forces are in place and an interim government established, existing sanctions on the flow of arms and on the export of Liberia's natural resources including gold, diamonds and timber, should be maintained until a solid democratic infrastructure is in place. We also have to make special provision for the rehabilitation of child soldiers and for the introduction of reconciliation practices to try to ensure such violence never erupts again. If the violence in Liberia is allowed to continue and escalate, the hard won peace and stability in the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone could also easily be squandered. We urge you to come to the rescue of the Liberian people as a matter of urgency before further lives are lost. Yours sincerely, Duncan MacLaren Secretary General Caritas Internationalis

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