WASHINGTON (June 12, 1997) -- The U.S. Catholic Conference today announced a Catholic Campaign to Ban Landmines involving a wide variety of organizations in renewed efforts to educate and advocate for a global ban on anti-personnel landmines.
Responding to the leadership of Pope John Paul II, and pleas from Catholic Bishops and church workers around the world, these Catholic organizations will undertake new efforts to educate and mobilize the Catholic community in support of stronger U.S. leadership to secure an early global ban on anti-personnel landmines.
The Campaign will broaden the awareness of the human and moral costs of the widespread use of these indiscriminate weapons, and strengthen advocacy for strong, unambiguous U.S. leadership in support of an early global ban.
The Catholic Campaign complements the wider campaign to ban landmines that includes veterans, human rights, peace, and relief organizations. Working with these and other groups, the Campaign will support new congressional legislation, introduced today by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), that would end most uses of anti-personnel landmines by the United States. This legislation would further the process of stigmatizing these indiscriminate weapons and thereby could contribute to efforts to seek an early ban on anti-personnel landmines through the Ottawa Process.
At a press conference at the Capitol today, Bishop James Malone, former president of the U.S. Catholic Conference, said, "We will not be satisfied by half-measures or vague promises. It is time for clear and strong U.S. commitment to ban these terrible weapons. We pledge our determined efforts to encourage overdue U.S. leadership, beginning with passage of the Leahy legislation to end the use of anti-personnel landmines by the United States."
The Campaign responds to the prayer of Pope John Paul II, that "government leaders may have the courage to listen to the cry of ... [landmine] victims and to successfully conclude, as rapidly as possible, negotiations currently underway to reach the total elimination of these insidious weapons."
International Days of Prayer will be observed June 22 to 28 to bring together persons of all faiths to pray for those suffering as a result of landmines and for progress towards a global ban.
"The urgency of a global ban is clear," according to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' International Policy Committee. "These deadly weapons cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers or between times of peace and times of war."
"These indiscriminate weapons should be banned now, not in some distant future. We are proud to join with the Church around the world and with others in the United States in an effort to persuade the Clinton Administration and Congress that U.S. commitment to and leadership in securing a global ban is an urgent moral and policy priority," Archbishop McCarrick continued.
Relief and development experience around the world has shown Catholic Relief Services-USCC the serious dangers and the effects of landmines on women, men and children in places like Cambodia, Vietnam and Angola. Landmines inflict death and needless suffering on countless innocent civilians as they carry out the activities of their daily lives--collecting firewood and water for use in their homes, farming their land, participating in income-generating activities, and simply walking to school. The presence of landmines also stops the safe return of some refugee populations to their home communities.
The Catholic Campaign to Ban Landmines will include new educational and advocacy efforts that will be coordinated with dioceses, parishes, and Catholic organizations throughout the country. Through posters, brochures, videos, speaking tours, and grassroots organizing, this effort will help to ensure that the Catholic community's moral and humanitarian concerns will be heard in the national debate on anti-personnel landmines.
The participation of the Catholic Bishops in this effort will be greatly enhanced by the services of Mercy Sister Janice Ryan, former president of Trinity College of Vermont, who has volunteered to help coordinate the Bishops' activities.
"We will not rest until the U.S. government, both by its example and its diplomacy, is leading the global effort to unconditionally ban anti-personnel landmines. In a still violent world, U.S. leadership on this issue would be both a sign of respect for human life and a commitment to pursue peace," according to Archbishop McCarrick of Newark.
The national Catholic groups that are participating in this Campaign include the following: Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities; Catholic Relief Services; Jesuit Refugee Service; the Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes; Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers; Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful; Maryknoll Sisters; the McAuley Institute; National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities; National Council of Catholic Women; NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Pax Christi, USA; U.S. Catholic Conference Department of Social Development and World Peace; Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference; U.S. Catholic Mission Association; Washington Archdiocese's Office of Social Concerns; Africa Faith and Justice Network.