Thursday, April 26, 2012

Steps Forward in Banning Landmines

Angolan School Children (courtesty Catholic Relief Services)
All over the world, in countries as far apart as Afghanistan, Angola, El Salvador and the Falkland Islands, buried but deadly anti-personnel landmines continue to threaten the innocent and the unwary.  The war may have ended, but the violence, random and unintended, continues as a farmer hoeing his field or a woman carrying water from the river sets off a landmine concealed decades earlier.

I saw for myself, while in El Salvador in 1990 during the tragic civil war in that country, children and adults in the countryside who had lost limbs to exploding landmines. During that war, it was the insurgents who used the threat of landmines to harass and demoralize government forces and to restrict their freedom of movement. The rebels did attempt to mark the minefields to reduce the risk to the civilian population, but inevitably there was, to use that bloodless and deeply cynical  euphemism, "collateral damage" during the war and in its aftermath.

I'm grateful then to see our Catholic bishops have signed onto a letter urging the US government to completely eliminate the use of landmines as a weapon of war.  Although far too many civilians continue to be killed or injured by the countless numbers of landmines that were laid by various warring armies during the 1970's and 1980's, there has been real progress made worldwide in banning the manufacture and use of these indiscriminate weapons. 

You can see the letter to the President at the following link.

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