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People enjoy cherry blossoms with unseasonable snowfall, despite Covid-19 People enjoy cherry blossoms with unseasonable snowfall, despite Covid-19  (ANSA)

First positive responses to appeal for global ceasefire

Several armed groups respond positively as the UN Secretary General and Pope Francis appeal for a global ceasefire in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Vatican News

Pope Francis often describes current conflicts as “a third world war fought piecemeal”. On Sunday, he joined UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in calling for “an immediate global ceasefire”, as the world struggles to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Pope Francis's appeal

Speaking after the midday Angelus Prayer, the Pope appealed for a cessation “of any form of hostilities”, and a “joint fight” against the coronavirus pandemic. He prayed that a united effort against the common enemy of Covid-19 “may inspire a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries in the leaders of nations and those parties involved. Conflicts are not resolved through war”, he said.

UN Secretary General’s appeal

Six days prior, on Monday, the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged warring parties across the world to “lay down their weapons” in support of the bigger battle against Covid-19.  “The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war”, he said. “It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives”, he added.

First responses

Responding to the UN appeal, several armed groups in Cameroon, the Philippines, Yemen and Syria, have taken the first steps to reduce violence in recent days. The five-year long civil war in Yemen has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. In Syria, a potential outbreak of Covid-19 poses a deadly threat to 6.5 million internally displaced people, suffering the effects of nine years of conflict.

The forgotten wars

Tensions remain, however, in many other areas of the world, including Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, and the Gaza Strip. In Mexico, drug traffickers battle for control of the narcotics trade, and North Korea recently launched two suspected ballistic missiles.

Around seventy states around the globe are currently engaged in some type of conflict, most of them in Africa and Asia. Many of these are forgotten wars. The Kurdish-Turkish conflict, for example, has been ongoing since 1984. The civil war in Somalia, since 1991.

Ceasefire effects

A ceasefire would allow humanitarian aid to reach populations most vulnerable to the spread of Covid-19. In his appeal on Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged “the creation of humanitarian aid routes, openness to diplomacy, and attentiveness to those who find themselves in situations of grave vulnerability”. 

For his part, the UN Secretary General confirmed how “women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalised, displaced and refugees, pay the highest price during conflicts”. They are the ones most at risk of suffering “devastating losses” from the coronavirus disease, he added.

“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world”, appealed Antonio Guterres. “This starts by stopping the fighting everywhere”. 

29 March 2020, 15:03