Report from the Pax Christi International Council

 Pax Christi, the International Catholic Peace Movement, held its bi-annual International Council in Mainz, Germany, from 31 October till 4 November 2001. The meeting elected new members for the Executive Committee: Mgr.Vaclav Maly, Auxiliary Bishop of Prague, Czech Republic; Laura Vargas from Peru; and Frangois Mabille from France. Marie Dennis from the USA continues her mandate as vice-president. Mgr Laurent Monsengwo from the DRCongo was elected as vice president - and Cesar Villanueva, from the Philippines, confirmed for a new term as vice president. A plenary session was held on the events of 11 September and Afghanistan. The council urgently called on the US and UK to halt the bombing in Afghanistan in order to allow aid to be delivered to the Afghan people. In a statement Pax Christi said it carried within its members "the lived experience of the reality and fear of the violence of terrorism and war. This experience convinced the participants of the council that war only creates more violence and suffering and will not stop terrorist activities." More than 175 people from 50 different countries attended the meeting, presided by Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and International President of Pax Christi. Cardinal Karl Lehmann, Archbishop of Mainz and President of the German Bishops Conference, gave a speech on peace work in the Church. Working groups and commissions dealt with many issues, including nuclear and biological weapons, light weapons, human rights, refugees, economic justice, culture of peace, gender and peace making. Regional working groups tackled the situations of human rights and conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Balkans and elsewhere. Participants expressed deep concern over the situation in the Holy Land and the need for the international community to act immediately. They said the UN should intervene immediately to stop the violence from all parties in the conflict. The called for all sides to go back to the negotiation table and discuss the process towards peace in the framework of international law and UN resolutions. The situation in the DRCongo was also discussed in detail. In a statement Pax Christi said: "The extreme suffering of the population, especially in the eastern part remains alarming. A severe food crisis coupled with the failure of the long awaited inter Congolese dialogue make the council anxious about the future of the DRC. The International council urges the UN to give stronger support for the inter-Congolese inclusive dialogue which need to begin as soon as possible. A renewed UN mandate and the deployment of a more substantial blue helmet peacekeeping force to secure the complete withdrawal of foreign troops is recommended." Pax Christi International also issued a statement on biological weapons. The movement expressed worries about the recent breakdown of the negotiations on a verification protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. It said: "Pax Christi International rejects any production, testing, transport, storage, use or possession of biological and toxin weapons for killing humans and for destroying human food, crops and animals. The developments in the USA after 11 September highlight the dangers of terrorist resorting to weapons of mass destruction. There is an increased urgency to agree on a Verification Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." A Youth Forum programme bringing together young people from Europe and the Middle East also met during the week.

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