Statement: Caritas Internationalis asks Pakistan: Open the Borders

Statement on Afghanistan/Pakistan

Caritas Internationalis asks Pakistan: Open the Borders

A call to the Pakistani Government to open its borders to the desperate Afghani refugees has been issued by Caritas Internationalis . In addition, CI supported the statement by Archbishop Martino, the Vatican Observer at the United Nations in New York, that "reprisals which strike indiscriminately at the innocent continue the spiral of violence and are illusionary solutions that prevent the moral isolation of the terrorists".

The current situation in Afghanistan, where the UN estimates that ca. 50,000 tonnes of food must reach within the next month to avoid a major humanitarian calamity, calls for the Caritas Confederation to ask that the border with Pakistan be opened in a controlled way to allow the correct conditions to receive people to prevail. This demand is according to international humanitarian law which respects the principles of independent and impartial assistance to civilians. An international Caritas team, including Caritas Pakistan, is ready to help feed and care for the hundreds of thousands of Afghanis fleeing bombing and oppression. To do so, the refugees have to be allowed on to Pakistani soil.

We ask this in the full knowledge that the Pakistani government and people have been generous in their reception of 2 million refugees already. We therefore demand of the international community that it should state more fully its solidarity with the Afghani and Pakistani people by ensuring that the refugee camps are temporary only, that the refugees will be assisted home once it is safe and that long term aid will be given to help build a democratic, pluralistic Afghanistan where all ethnic groups and women are respected, given full human rights and have the conditions to lead a dignified, human life.

Whereas terrorists who threaten the peace and stability of all peoples have to be brought to justice, a blanket bombing campaign destroys innocent lives, continues the suffering of ordinary people and breeds future terrorists. We call for an end to such bombing. Recently, Archbishop Martino, the Vatican Observer at the UN in New York, said, and we concur: "Reprisals which strike indiscriminately at the innocent, continue the spiral of violence and are illusionary solutions that prevent the moral isolation of the terrorists."

Caritas has also called for movement in three areas connected to the breeding ground of terrorism:- 1. An end to the violence in the Holy Land. Caritas has published a position paper on Palestine which calls for a restart to the peace process which will culminate in the creation of a Palestinian state. This will act as a guide for members who wish to engage more fully in this tragedy which fuels other tragedies. In addition, a CI Working Group on Palestine meets at the General Secretariat on 29th October. We also continue to advocate for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq.

2. To start a real Christian-Moslem dialogue. We see the recent march of Christians and Moslems together in Bethlehem as being prophetic for the future.

3. To continue our work at the international level in peace-building and reconciliation work. The CI Handbook on Reconciliation will soon be followed by a manual on reconciliation to help Caritas workers become "agents of peace".

Previous CI responses to the events of September 11th 2001 and the current events in Afghanistan

(a) We published a statement condemning the attacks, supporting our American colleagues in CRS and Catholic Charities USA in their time of grief and calling them an "attack against humanity". We also stated that, for a lasting world peace, the peace process in Palestine had to be set on track again, the Islamic-Christian dialogue had to be deepened and the huge gap between rich and poor in our world tackled more vigorously. CI and CIDSE also sent a joint letter to President Bush giving our condolences and asking for restraint in choosing military options in response, saying " in a time when revenge will be the word on too many lips, we must pray for the grace to live our lives with the restraint that justice demands. We truly believe that when we are working for justice, we create peace. When we live with justice and seek reconciliation among all peoples, we will build a culture of peace"..

(b) We encouraged our members to hold vigils, masses and prayer gatherings for the victims of the disaster, their families and to pray for peace in the world.

(c) The General Secretariat, after comprehensive consultations, initiated an Emergency Relief Support Team (ERST) in Pakistan composed of Caritas Pakistan, CRS and Caritas Europa (Trocaire, Cordaid, Secours Catholique and Caritas Germany. An appeal was prepared, as per the mandate of the group, and a new committee structure approved which would oversee the operations detailed in the appeal. The committee consists of Caritas Pakistan (national office plus the two affected diocesan offices), one member each from Caritas members CRS and Cordaid ( both already operational in the region)and one appointed by CI who would chair the committee. An appeal for nearly $11 million has now been launched. In addition, CI will be sending an exploratory team ( consisting of Caritas MONA, Caritas Italiana and Caritas Germany) to Iran to see if access to the refugees on the closed Iranian-Afghan border is possible.

For further information, please contact Lynn Yuill, Head of Communications, General Secretariat, Caritas Internationalis at:

Caritas Internationalis
25. oktober 2001

av Webmaster publisert 29.10.2001, sist endret 29.10.2001 - 12:50