Libyan Church leader says NATO bombings won't solve crisis

A rebel mans an anti-aircraft gun in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2011 / Photo Credit: BRQ Network via flickr
A rebel mans an anti-aircraft gun in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2011 / Photo Credit: BRQ Network via flickr


The apostolic vicar of Tripoli in Libya has called for NATO to stop its military involvement in the Libyan civil war. He said the violence is taking a heavy toll on civilians and failing to produce any resolution.

"The United Nations has decided to make war and to not allow any form of dialogue as a means of resolving disputes,” Bishop Giovanni I. Martinelli lamented on April 27. He described the escalation of fighting as “a defeat for humanity,” saying that “nothing will change” on account of the Western powers' intervention.

NATO leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, will meet next week in Italy to discuss strategies to fend off Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's attacks on civilians and provide support to rebels seeking regime change. On April 29, the Libyan government made a final offer of amnesty to rebels in the besieged city of Misrata, giving them four days to surrender as the army closed in.

“NATO and the rebels must stop the military intervention and accept diplomatic talks with the regime,” Bishop Martinelli told Fides news agency. In an April 28 interview, he said the bombing campaign, targeted toward military objectives, was making ordinary life impossible for civilians. “It is crazy to think of bombing a city without producing consequences on civilians … Can the U.N. do such a thing?”

What upset him most, he told Fides in an update during Holy Week, was the rejection of diplomatic means for ending the conflict between Colonel Moammar Gadhafi and the rebel forces – a prospect that may have  had greater chance of success before NATO bombings began. As it stands, the war “risks creating a destructive spiral from which it is difficult to escape.”

Bishop Martinelli recently told the Associated Press that most of Tripoli's 100,000 Catholics had fled the city, leaving around 5,000 adherents. The fighting has reportedly reduced Tripoli's Greek Orthodox community from 1,000 people to about a dozen, with Greek and Eastern European immigrants leaving Libya in droves.

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