05/03/2007, 00.00
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Holy See: international solidarity for Iraqi refugees

Vatican envoy speaks at the international conference on Iraqi refugees organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, where he stressed the need to help countries hosting those forced to flee their country, including Christians and members of other religious minorities.

Vatican (AsiaNews) – The international community needs to take a “vigorous leadership” role in finding ways out of the Iraqi crisis, which is affecting the whole Middle East, said Mgr Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and International Organisations in Geneva. If “[t]he greatest challenge is to find a way for reconciliation,” it is urgent to make the necessary effort to help the millions of refugees, including Christians and members of other religious minorities and, pending their safe repatriation, the countries that host them. Mgr Tomasi made these remarks at the International Conference on Addressing the Humanitarian Needs of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons inside Iraq and in Neighbouring Countries organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees which was held on April 17-18 in Geneva (Switzerland).

In Iraq, where it seems “easier to die than to live,” the “world is witnessing an unprecedented degree of hate and destructiveness,” the Vatican diplomat said. Its deadly impact is affecting the entire Middle East region.

The many forms of violence against defenceless civilians are a stark reminder of the passionate plea the late Pope John Paul II made on March 16, 2003, when he against “the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and for the balance of the Middle East region already sorely tried, and for the extremisms that could stem from it.”

The “[m]assive uprooting and displacement of the Iraqi population is now indeed a tremendous consequence,” he said. “The figures are telling: some 2 million Iraqis currently displaced internally and 2 million others have already fled the country and between 40 and 50,000 are fleeing their homes each month.

The Vatican envoy praised the “very generous” welcome provided by Jordan and Syria. However, economic, social and security concerns are putting to the test their willingness and capacity to welcome. It is thus urgent for the international community to assume its responsibility and provide the necessary.

“Where war and violence have destroyed the social fabric and unity of Iraq, judicious political choices and a non-discriminatory humanitarian engagement would be the first step to re-establish a pluralistic unity,” he said.

But, in a region that has seen the rise of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948, there are groups who have been particularly affected like women and children.

There are “uprooted Iraqi children [who] wake up in exile to a daily experience of uncertainty, deprivation, lack of schooling, and to hard labour just to attain the minimal essentials of human survival.”

Similarly, “Christian and other religious minorities who have been a target of forced eviction and ethnic and religious cleansing by radical groups find themselves in limbo in their temporary place of refuge since they are unable to return to their homes and are without a possibility of local integration or resettlement.

The suffering of all the victims should lead to “a coordinated, effective and generous response.”

Although “comprehensive reconciliation and peace are the obvious responses,” the countries hosting displaced Iraqis “must receive tangible and prompt solidarity.”

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