|Asia Pacific: a world free of landmines and cluster bombs|
Bangkok, 30 April, 2011 – Everyone at JRS lent their leg earlier this month, and I hope you joined too. April 4 was International Mine Awareness Day and JRS continues its work to advocate for a ban of landmines worldwide along with cluster bombs.
And while April raised awareness about mines, we still need to keep our sights set on cluster bombs. We were thrilled in 2008 when over half of world’s governments outlawed cluster bombs.
But it was short-lived.
Recently countries like France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK, who signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, were under pressure from the US, China and Russia, supported by Israel and Australia to circumvent the ban that would allow them to use particular kinds of cluster munitions. It took vigorous campaigning to defeat their attempt. A few months ago, a young boy picked up a bright metal object near his home in Cambodia that turned out to be a cluster bomb. He died and was survived by his grandmother. And she has to go on, living in the same place where her grandson died, not knowing if there are more bombs or mines around her home.
But things are moving.While we appreciate the generous assistance given to mine-affected countries to clear mines and assist victims, we continue to knock on the doors of countries like the US, Russia, China, India, Israel and others to ratify the treaty and convention to pave the way for a mine free world.
Two landmine survivors in Cambodia have now become ambassadors to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munitions Coalition (ICBL/CMC) and great friends of JRS. Tun Channareth and Song Kosal have travelled the world with JRS and the ICBL pushing for real progress to end the use of the weapons that almost took their lives. Loosing limbs did not destroy their human dignity and they chose to rise above their pain in order to give voice to many other voiceless survivors.
While Mine Awareness Day is a chance to keep the issue current, it is also a chance to reflect. And in reflecting, it is a chance to be grateful. We are grateful to all of the survivors who fight against the use of landmines and cluster bombs. We are grateful to all of the survivors who continue to work in their community and raise families. We are grateful to the advocates around the world.And we still pray that we will see a mine free world in our lifetime so our children will never have to lend their legs.
Bernard Hyacinth Arputhasamy, SJ regional director JRS Asia Pacific