By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 July, 2014
Landmines "prolong war and nurture fear even when conflict has ended” Pontiff warns.
He made his comments in a message to participants at the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their Destruction, which has just ended in Mozambique.
In his message, the Pope urged the delegates to renew their commitment to make binding decisions that would change the life of “so many families, communities, regions and countries who continue to live every day in fear of landmines, in insecurity and poverty”.
He told over 1,000 representatives of States and NGOs attending the conference in Maputo from 23 to 27 June that anti-personnel mines are “subtle because they prolong war and nurture fear even when conflict has ended”.
The Pontiff said the victims of landmines remind us of the human failure regarding peace and stability, which are in the interest of all.
The message, sent by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin on behalf of Pope Francis, describes anti-personnel mines as the weapons of cowards, and points out that the wounds inflicted by anti-personnel mines remind us that the use of weapons in general represent a defeat for all.
The Pope concluded his message expressing his hope that the Convention could provide a model for other processes, “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.
“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”, the Pontiff wrote.
The Ottawa Convention was published in 1994 and 161 nations have signed up to it so far.
However, the US has not signed but said it would no longer add to its landmine stockpile, and indicated that one day it hopes to sign up to the treaty.
Some estimates put the current number of landmines, which are viewed as an indiscriminate weapon which lingers for decades after a war has ended, at over 10 million in over 70 countries.
In the 1990s, landmines were killing between 10,000 and 15,000 people annually.
As awareness has grown and landmine removal efforts have continued this number has fallen to around 4,000 deaths each year, many of whom are children.