Washington D.C., Feb 23, 2014 / 06:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace is asking the government to join an international convention banning the use of land mines.
“Please urge the President to exercise his leadership on banning landmines by acceding to the Ottawa Convention,” wrote Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a Feb. 12 letter to National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice.
“Our views are grounded in Church teaching that calls for a ban on landmines on moral grounds since they are indiscriminate weapons that kill and maim innocent civilians during and long after hostilities end,” Bishop Pates explained.
His letter calls the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty or the Ottawa Convention.
The international accord calls for signatory countries to cease the development and production of anti-personnel land mines, destroy its stockpile of land mines within four years, and clear its mined areas within a decade of signing the treaty. A small number of mines may be retained for the sake of training purposes.
Currently, 161 countries have signed the convention, including member states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, all of the nations in South America, and most countries in Africa.
In his letter, Bishop Pates referred to a statement made by Rice in her former role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In 2011, the ambassador voiced concern over the dangers that unexploded mines “cost in terms of security and human potential” and concluded that “we must resolve to strengthen our efforts to ensure that the earth is sown with the fruits of opportunity and prosperity, not dangerous remnants of war.”
Bishop Pates asked that the U.S. ratify the treaty in “keeping with the spirit of your statement” on land mines.
Echoing the Holy See's concern for “deplorable humanitarian consequences of anti-personnel mines,” he also noted the danger that unexploded mines still pose today to civilians in countries around the globe, including in Iraq, Cambodia, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
The bishop pledged the support of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, saying that it would “work vigorously for ratification of a treaty that rids the world of these weapons which cause long-term, irreparable, and indiscriminate harm.”