A Memorial Service for fallen soldiers of the Falkland/Malvinas war in Pilar, Buenos Aires Province A Memorial Service for fallen soldiers of the Falkland/Malvinas war in Pilar, Buenos Aires Province  (AFP or licensors)

Argentinian and British war veterans commemorate their dead and promote peace

To coincide with “Malvinas Day” which commemorates those killed during the 1982 war between Argentina and the UK over the disputed Malvinas/Falklands Islands, a programme of prayers and ecumenical events decried conflict and called for healing.

By Linda Bordoni

A series of events promoting peace and reconciliation took place in Buenos Aires last week, 40 years from the start of the 10-week Malvinas/Falkland Islands war.

The events took place to coincide with Malvinas Day, a tribute to the fallen in the war that is commemorated each year on its anniversary.

That war, which began on 2 April 1982, lasted 74 days, with 255 British and 649 Argentinian soldiers, sailors, and airmen and three civilian inhabitants of the Islands killed. The Argentinian government is continuing with its efforts to identify the remains of all its fallen troops during the conflict.

Malvinas Day was first introduced in 2001. It replaced the June 10th "Sovereignty over Malvinas Islands" Day, which until then had commemorated the appointment of Luis Vernet as governor of the Islands by Buenos Aires in 1832.

The history of the Malvinas/Falklands Islands

Prior to the British occupation of the disputed islands on 3 January 1833, these were part of the area under Spanish jurisdiction since the entry into force of the first international instruments delimiting the “New World” after the discovery of 1492.

A succession of Spanish governorates came to an end with the Argentinian War of Independence, and two years later, in 1820, an Argentinian Navy Colonel hoisted the Argentinian flag in the Malvinas Islands and carried out a “solemn seizure of possession” which subsequently led to the establishment of legal and administrative structures. The process culminated with the creation, in 1829, of the Political and Military Command of the Malvinas and those adjacent to Cabo de Hornos.

But in 1833 this exercise of sovereignty was interrupted by the United Kingdom which occupied the islands and expelled the Argentinian authorities.

UN Resolution 2065

Since then, a sovereignty dispute between the Argentine Republic and the United Kingdom has continued unabated. The dispute was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 2065 (XX) adopted in 1965, which aimed to put an end to colonialism in all its forms and manifestations.

In compliance with that resolution, negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands took place in the 1960s and 1970s, but no agreement was ever reached.

In 2013 a referendum on the political status was held in the Falklands/Malvinas asking Islanders whether or not they supported the continuation of their status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in view of Argentina’s repeated calls for negotiations on the Island’s sovereignty. An overwhelming majority voted to remain a British territory.

Argentina does not recognize the validity of that vote and continues to reaffirm its “legitimate and imprescriptible” sovereignty rights over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas “in accordance with international law, and respecting the way of life of their inhabitants.”

Moreover, it continues to reiterate its request to the UN Secretary-General to renew his efforts in the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to him by the General Assembly through successive resolutions, and together with Latin American partners and Associated States, it calls for the resumption of negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the dispute.

The Church promoting peace and reconciliation

Meanwhile, Church representatives and faith-based groups continue to promote peace and reconciliation.

In 2019 an image of the beloved Argentinian Patron, Our Lady of Luján, which was left behind by Argentinian soldiers at the end of the Falklands/Malvinas war, was returned by the United Kingdom and blessed by Pope Francis before being taken back to Argentina 37 years after the conflict was over.

Speaking to Vatican Radio about this year’s ecumenical service in Buenos Aires in which British and Argentinian representatives prayed for renewed fraternity and peace, the Bishop of the British Armed Forces, Paul Mason, commented on this 2019 gesture that, he recalled, was mirrored by Argentina’s Bishop Santiago Olivera who gave a replica of Our Lady of Luján to the Catholic Military Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Aldershot.

And reiterating the responsibility and mission of Church members to always show the way to promoting real reconciliation he said: “I don’t think such depths of reconciliation and the motivation for reconciliation can come from nowhere. I think it comes from a deep-seated place of prayer and a place of faith, and I saw that on both sides as a motivating factor.”

07 April 2022, 18:07