Pope backs effort to rid world of land mines


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI called for continued efforts to rid the world of land mines so that people could be free to walk the earth without fear of injury or death.

“I encourage all those who are working to free humanity from these terrible and insidious devices,” the pope said, as he expressed his closeness to all victims and their families.

The pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience talk April 4 as he recalled the U.N. International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, celebrated the same day.

Recalling the words of Blessed John Paul II the day before a U.N. convention on the ban and destruction of anti-personnel land mines took effect in 1999, Pope Benedict said land mines keep people from “being able to walk together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death.”

About 72 countries in the world are thought to be riddled with land mines, and Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya are considered nations most at risk, according to a 2011 report by the non-profit Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

More than 12 countries produce land mines, including China, India, Russia, Cuba and the United States, the report said.

It said in 2010, at least 77 square miles were cleared of mines and more than 400,000 anti-personnel and anti-vehicle mines were destroyed through anti-mine programs, mostly in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia, Iraq and Sri Lanka. An additional 177 square miles were reportedly cleared in former war zones, particularly in Asia.

The Vatican is one of 159 states that signed the 1999 Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. Thirty-five countries, including the United States, have not signed or ratified the treaty.