Pope: humanitarian law and conscience to alleviate the atrocities of wars

The protection of victims of conflicts in the face of "testimonies of atrocious crimes, real offenses against people and their dignity, committed in contempt of every elementary consideration of humanity". "A conversion of hearts is needed, an opening to God and neighbor, which drives people to overcome indifference and to live in solidarity, as a moral virtue and social attitude, from which a commitment can be made to suffering humanity".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Faced with testimonies of terrible atrocities and destruction affecting people and things involved in conflicts, it is necessary to make "further developments" on international humanitarian law and also to pray and push for the awakening of moral consciousness.

This was the thrust of the Pope’s address to participants at the Third International Humanitarian Law Conference, which is being held in Rome, dedicated to the theme "Protection of civilian populations in conflicts - The role of humanitarian organizations and civil society" and which focuses on the role that society civilians in general and humanitarian organizations in particular are covered by international law and international humanitarian law.

"This theme," said Francis, "is particularly significant on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Victims of Armed Conflicts", also signed by the Holy See "in order to encourage a" humanization of the effects of armed conflict."

However, he continued, the Holy See "aware of the omissions and hesitations" still existing on "protecting victims of non-international armed conflict" and "continues to consider these instruments as a door open to further developments in international humanitarian law" . Too often, in fact, he stressed, "the evidence of atrocious crimes, of actual outrages on people and their dignity, committed in violation of every elementary consideration of humanity comes from various theaters of war. Images of lifeless people, of mutilated or decapitated bodies, of our brothers and sisters tortured, crucified, burned alive, offended even in their remains, question the conscience of humanity. On the other hand, there are news of ancient cities, with their millennial cultural treasures, reduced to rubble and ruin, hospitals and schools destroyed in deliberate attacks, thereby depriving entire generations of their right to life, health and education. How many churches and other places of worship are subject to targeted aggression, often during liturgical celebrations, with many victims among the faithful and ministers gathered in prayer, in violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion! "

And sometimes, he went on to say, "the spread of this information can result in saturation that anesthesizes and, to some extent, relativises the severity of the problems so that it is more difficult to move compassion and open peoples conscience to solidarity."

"For this to happen, a conversion of hearts is necessary, an opening to God and neighbor, which drives people to overcome indifference and to live solidarity, as a moral virtue and social attitude, from which a commitment can be made to suffering mankind. At the same time, however, it is encouraging to see the many demonstrations of solidarity and charity that are not lacking in times of war. There are so many people, many charitable groups, and non-governmental organizations within and outside the Church whose members face fatigue and dangers to cure the injured and the sick, to bury the dead, to feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty, to visit prisoners. Really relief to the peoples of the conflicts is accompanied by various works of mercy, upon which we will be judged at the end of our lives. Can humanitarian organizations always act in accordance with the fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. I therefore hope that these principles, which are the heart of humanitarian law, can be welcomed in the consciences of fighters and humanitarian workers to be translated into practice. Where humanitarian law knows hesitation and omission, knowing individual conscience recognizes the moral duty of respecting and protecting the dignity of the human person in all circumstances, especially in situations where it is most strongly threatened. For this to be possible, I would like to recall the importance of prayer and to ensure, alongside technical and legal training, the spiritual accompaniment of fighters and humanitarian workers."