By Robin Gomes
The Holy See on Friday reiterated its full support for all efforts in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and called for promoting the culture of peace, keeping the dignity of every human person at the centre of every action.
“High levels of arms and ammunition in circulation contribute to insecurity, cause harm to civilians, facilitate human rights violations and impede humanitarian access,” noted Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York, citing a report by the UN Secretary-General. He was addressing a UN General Assembly meeting on illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
Peace and development
Stressing that a secure world is essential for development and in combatting extreme poverty, he cited Pope Paul VI: “Development is the new name for peace.” This, he pointed out, affirms the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which states: “There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.”
In this regard, the Filipino archbishop underscored the importance of education, especially for the many young people who fall prey to recruitment into armed groups. Dragged into violent conflicts, he lamented, they find themselves caught up in perpetuating cycles of violence, not of their making. Rather than building a lasting and more just and peaceful society, they become more adept with instruments of destruction than books and pens.
Educational and awareness activities, the archbishop said, also help people of all ages from making an unjust use of weapons and promote a culture of peace and life.
The human person
The ultimate goal that unites all in overcoming the culture of violence, he said, is the protection of the life and dignity of each human person. Hence, in dealing with the problem of illicit trade in arms, one must not lose sight of the centrality of the human person.
Global arms trade in 2017 was estimated at $95 billion. Archbishop Auza regarded as shameful the accumulation of great wealth through licit and illicit trafficking in the instruments of death. Yet, countries that produce and sell weapons of war are unwilling to take in refugees from war-torn regions. Those who pay the price are always the little ones, the poor and the most vulnerable.
Archbishop Auza said that the proliferation of weapons aggravates situations of conflict unimaginable human suffering and material costs and undermines development, human rights and lasting peace.
He noted that the UN’s Program of Action and the International Tracing Instrument enhance respect for life and the dignity of the human person through the promotion of a culture of peace.
Greater international cooperation and assistance, he said, are needed to restrict severely, and ultimately eradicate, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
The war against illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, he said, can only be fought and won through international collaboration and a vigorous implementation of international, regional and bilateral agreements.
He warned that the lack of control of the movement of such weapons also feeds other nefarious activities, such as terrorism, the trafficking in persons, the illicit trade in drugs and other forms of organized crime.