DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     October 22, 1998     vol. 9, no. 207

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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VATICAN OBSERVER AT UN CALLS FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT AND DEMOBILIZATION OF CHILDREN

          VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer for the Holy See at the United Nations in New York, on Monday expressed the desire of the Holy See for a "general and complete" nuclear disarmament, at the beginning of the fifth session of the general assembly of the organization.

          The Holy See called for rapid progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons, outlawing them, and setting up a system of regular inspections by an international authority. Archbishop Martino then proposed the convocation of an international conference on nuclear disarmament for the purpose.

          In his declaration on "general and complete disarmament," the prelate expressed his satisfaction for the progress made in this area, in particular concerning the treaty against anti-personnel landmines, ratified by the Holy See, which invites other nations to do so as well.

          He also said he was pleased by the efforts made to reduce the flow of light weapons and defense spending to the benefit of development programs. He however asked for more effective measures against the international arms traffic which feeds "violence and instability without scruples."

          The archbishop also denounced the presence of some 30,000 nuclear ballistic missiles, which constitute a "serious danger to humanity," and an "unacceptable risk" of accidental or terrorist catastrophes. He thus asked the nuclear powers to take concrete initiatives, immediately, without ambiguities. He proposed as a first step that the bearers of nuclear weapons commit to a "No First Use" pledge.

          Also, as the United Nations General Assembly discussed "the promotion and the defense of the rights of the children," Archbishop Renato Martino, Permanent Observer for Holy See at the UN in New York, launched a call on Tuesday for the "immediate demobilization" and rehabilitation in society of child soldiers, along with all necessary psychological counseling and other required assistance.

          According to UN Security Council figures quoted by Archbishop Martino, children currently suffer from the wars in 50 countries, representing 50 million children worldwide. During the last decade, 2 million children have been killed, more than one million were orphaned, 6 million have been seriously wounded or handicapped for life, 12 million have lost their homes, and 10 million suffer from serious psychological traumas. Half of all refugees are children, and 250,000 children are serving under arms. He said these figures constitute an "abomination."

          The Holy See condemns "any form of exploitation or abuse of children, including using them in wars" and he called on "the Family of Nations" to ensure that the children benefit from a "special protection" in these conflicts.

          He also asked for the "immediate demobilization" of children engaged in armed struggle and for their psychological welfare in the long term, as well as the prohibition on the conscripting of children in the future. Archbishop Martino said the time for solemn declarations had passed and now is the time for unified action by the nations. The archbishop then called for the return to their country of origin of the abandoned or refugee children, as well as the implementation of urgently needed medical aid and schools.

          Pointing out that 800 children each month are victims of anti-personnel landmines, he underlined the urgency of putting into place the 1997 Oslo agreement to prevent the death and the mutilation of thousands of innocents. On this topic, he quoted the call made by Pope John Paul II in his message to the secretary-general of the UN in 1990.


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October 22, 1998       volume 9, no. 207
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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