Tag: <span>Pope Francis</span>

Russia-Ukraine War Appeals

Alternatives to War: Renewal and Impact.

Featured Image: Ukrainian T-72AV with a white cross during the 2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv counteroffensive. By Mil.gov.ua, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

One year into the Russia-Ukraine War, one has a “been there, done that” feeling.  To settle arguments by war is not a new idea.  There can be modifications in time.  The armed conflicts in Syria have been going on for 12 years.  There can be modifications in the number of players. It is said that there are 120 armed groups in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  However, the nature of war remains the same: to kill as many as possible so that one side wins the argument.

The Russia-Ukraine War has led to increasing the methods of war-making in many countries such as the U.S.A., Germany and France.  There have been increases in military spending, in the possibility of making munitions, and in military strategy.  It is most likely that other countries will follow suit.

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

Able to establish a ceasefire.

Along with the practice of war, there has been a long tradition of seeking alternatives to war as a way of settling disagreements.  Thus, today, related to the Russia-Ukraine War, we have the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  However these two governmental organizations have not been able to establish a ceasefire, much less to open negotiations.  As in other armed conflicts, there have been proposals to organize negotiations made by one country, most recently by China.

There had been earlier France-Germany efforts as well as proposals by individual leaders of countries such as Turkey, Israel, and Mexico.  Such proposals are useful in creating an atmosphere that might lead to negotiations, but none have been acted on for the moment.

United Nations
Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Red Cross Conventions.

There is also a tradition from the early 1900s of non-governmental proposals of alternatives to war.  The first put into practice were the Red Cross Conventions.  If war cannot be avoided, its consequences can be made less deadly by protecting civilians, by helping wounded soldiers, by improving the conditions of prisoners of war.  There have been many violations of international humanitarian law in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, but no state has questioned the validity of the Red Cross Conventions.

There have also been calls for peace on the part of religious organizations such as the pleas of Pope Francis, echoing Christian ethics and efforts of Vatican diplomacy in the settlement of other armed conflicts.  Other religious leaders have made similar pleas, but no other religious movement has the diplomatic infrastructure of the Vatican.

Pope Francis
Picture: 2014 Pastoral Visit of Pope Francis to Korea Closing Mass for Asian Youth Day. By Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name), CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The peace movement.

In many countries, there are non-governmental organizations devoted to peace and working for alternatives to war – generally called “the peace movement.”  There have been in the past some impressive mobilizations, such as those in many countries on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 or in New York at the time of the U.N. General Assembly devoted to disarmament.

While peace groups have been concerned with the Russia-Ukraine war, there has not been a unified policy as to the conditions necessary for ending the war.  Some have proposed a new European-wide security system with an end to NATO and a strengthened OSCE.  However, the influence of peace organizations on governmental policy-making is negligible.

Democratic Republic of Congo
 Image: Movement militiamen M23 and Type 85 heavy machine gun. By Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Increasing Tensions and Danger of Violence.

“The Global South” and “Future Studies”.

There is alongside the peace movement but separate in function, the peace research institutions, often linked to universities. Transcend Media Service-TMS is a reflection of this peace research.  There are a number of academic peace research institutions, often with their own publications.   There have been in the past efforts to link together institutions and individuals working on peace research, development research on what is now called “the Global South” and “Future Studies”.  I have not seen these associations’ policy proposals on the Russia-Ukraine War, but I have probably missed many things.

Many have pointed to the Russia-Ukraine War as a turning point–the first war in Europe since the Second World War (if one sets aside the conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia).  Such a turning point requires an examination of our activities, their strengths and weaknesses.  For those of us working on alternatives to war, it is imperative that we renew our efforts and find ways to increase our impact. Present governments cannot be trusted to deal with conflicts nonviolently or build peace by peaceful means. These became Civil Society’s tasks. Like war, peace is too important to be left to the generals.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Reconciliation Appeals

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis’ Appeal to the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan for reconciliation and forgiveness stresses a vital need to overcome the divisions of the armed conflicts in the two countries.  A million people came to the Kinshasa airport to hear the Pope call for an end to the armed conflicts in the eastern Congo, basically the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu.  The area is huge, about the size of the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River.  Originally, he had hoped to go to Goma, the major city of eastern Congo, with many refugees from the surrounding area. 

However, the security situation was such that the itinerary was modified.  However, his words reached the area.

Pope Francis in 2021. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a large Christian population.  The activity of Christian missionaries was part of the agreement to create the Congo Free State which was the personal property of the King of Belgium before becoming a Belgium colony.  Thus, the Pope’s influence can be real with a fairly strongly developed Catholic Church infrastructure to follow up.

However, the divisions within the country are deep and of long duration.  The divisions have both ethnic and economic roots.  The Congo’s vast mineral and timber riches have drawn in neighboring armies which have joined local insurgencies as well as local commanders of the national army to exploit the mines and to keep miners in near slavery.  The eastern area of Congo has been the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.  In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivus, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Front, now become the government of Rwanda led by Paul Kagame.

Rwandan PRESIDENT KAGAME ATTENDS THE NEPAD@20 SYMPOSIUM Virtual Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda (2014). By Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genocidaire.

Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had killed some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda.  They continued to kill Tutsis living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.  As the Rwandan groups created their own militias, so did different Congolese ethnic groups, often drawing on their ethnic brothers who deserted from the Congolese army.  Deserters and ethnic militias combined to rob and burn villages and to rape on a large scale.  Rape as an instrument of war has been widely practiced in eastern Congo.

Systematic rape is a crime which is covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  Rape is a violation of international humanitarian law.  Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions prohibits:

“violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture…outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault, slavery.”

Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War.

The MONUC.

Into this disorder, in 2002, the United Nations sent peacekeepers, the MONUC, currently some 18,000 persons – the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.  The MONUC mandate has been prolonged with a new Security Council resolution each year that the sponsors hope will be the last.  Each year, there is so little improvement in the security situation that the mandate is continued with little debate and with general indifference of world public opinion.

On paper, the U.N. mandate is clear and comprehensive – to build the political, military, institutional, social and economic structures needed to create a secure environment.  However, there is no effective Congolese administration.  The U.N. troops are not trained to deal with the cultural issues – especially land tenure and land use issues, which are the chief causes of the conflict.  U.N. peacekeepers are effective when there is peace to keep.  Today, there are an estimated 120 separate armed militias in action.

What is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under U.N. command as reconciliation bridge builders, persons who are able to restore relations among ethnic groups of the area.  Such bridge builders can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and the restoration of confidence among peoples in conflict. It must be hoped that the Appeals of Pope Francis will provoke creative action on the part of bridge builders.

 Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12