Why are more civilians dying in war? Nuncio says global community must act

Tombstones at the war cemetery in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Credit: Andreas Duren/CNA.
Tombstones at the war cemetery in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Credit: Andreas Duren/CNA.

.- The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has said that the entire international community is implicated “in one way or another” in the rise of civilian deaths in modern warfare.

“The extent of responsibility goes well beyond those directly massacring civilians,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the U.N. said in a Jan. 19 intervention.

Silence, indifference, and the manufacture and sale of arms are how other contribute to the steadily rising number of innocent civilians who are war casualties.

The rate of civilians killed in armed conflicts is staggering, he said, especially when compared to numbers from the beginning of the 20th century.

The archbishop spoke during the U.N. Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

“In the early 1900s, around 5 percent of fatalities were civilians,” the archbishop said, “while in the 1990s, over 90 percent of the fatalities were non-combatants.”

These numbers only continue to get worse, Archbishop Auza said. He highlighted the statistics from the June 2015 Report of the U.N. Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. That report found “that the deliberate targeting of and indiscriminate attacks on civilians are still increasing.”

He outlined a list of actions the international community should take to put a stop to this “ongoing tragedy.”

First, the “barbarity” of civilian targeting “must be denounced by all without exception and in the strongest possible terms.”

The international community must next use all possible resources, including “the legitimate use of force” to put an end to these practices and bring those responsible to justice.

Lastly, those populations who have been torn apart by war crimes need “all the help we can and must provide.”

Both targeted and indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians result in “clear violations of international humanitarian law.”

“The consequences are there for the whole world to see: huge civilian casualties including many children; massive population displacements; the refugee and migration crisis,” Archbishop Auza continued.

“The use of civilians as weapons of war represents the worst of human behavior,” he added.

“The international community should show itself at its best by conquering evil with good, by beating our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, by combating indifference with solidarity, and by rising above narrow national and geopolitical interests to spare all of us from the scourge of wars.”

The archbishop drew from Pope Francis’ recent address to the Holy See Diplomatic Corps. The Pope said that Rachel in the Old Testament shows us the sorrow that should accompany such destruction of life and peace.

He added that the Holy Father specifically thanked Lebanon, Jordan, Italy, Greece, and Turkey “for all their efforts and commitments to save lives and ease suffering.”

“These countries need the help of the entire international community to face the challenges posed by massive movements of refugees and migrants,” he said.

Tags: UN, United Nations, Vatican diplomacy


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