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"In East Timor the church completely understood why people took up arms, even though they [the church] kept calling on them not to use those arms," Jose Ramos-Horta

Subject: [PCUSAnews] Armed intervention to save lives can be justified, says Nobel peace laureate Note #6370 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:



Armed intervention to save lives can be justified, says Nobel peace laureate

by Stephen Brown

Ecumenical News International

BERLIN -- Nobel peace prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, in Berlin for the launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence, has strongly defended the need for armed intervention by the international community to deal with human rights abuses.

Ramos-Horta, joint winner of the 1996 Nobel peace prize and cabinet member for foreign affairs in East Timor's United Nations Transitional Administration, was speaking to journalists at a press conference yesterday (February 4) during a series of events to mark the official launch of the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches seeking Reconciliation and Peace, 2001-2010.

There was no alternative to armed intervention by the international community in situations like Kosovo, Cambodia and Rwanda where human rights were being abused on a massive scale, he said.

"What do you do? You preach, you pray and let the Kosovars die?" Ramos-Horta said. He pointed out that at a peace gathering in The Netherlands in 1999, he had been one of the few speakers to say, in front of thousands of people, that he supported Nato's intervention "to avoid genocide" in Kosovo. "There was no other alternative," he said yesterday.

The Decade to Overcome Violence is intended to encourage churches and ecumenical partners to overcome all forms of violence and as a statement of the WCC's wish to work together with local communities, secular movements and people of other faiths to build a culture of peace. Its launch yesterday took place as part of a meeting in nearby Potsdam of the WCC's central committee.

However, the launch of the decade has been partly overshadowed by debate over whether the use of violence can ever be justified. A paper presented to central committee members last week spoke of the "use of armed force as a last resort." And in his report to the central committee, its moderator, Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Apostolic Church, suggested that although violence was "evil," it might be an "unavoidable alternative, a last resort" for people living "under conditions of injustice and oppression, where all means of non-violent actions are used up."

Catholicos Aram's remarks were criticized by some central committee members, particularly from Germany.

In a speech yesterday in Berlin, Catholicos Aram pointed out that the decade was a commitment "to overcome violence by active non-violence," but he went on to reiterate: "Even so, we do not judge those for whom, in extreme situations, when hope for justice and dignity has disappeared, the use of force as a last resort may become necessary."

However, one of the other speakers at the event, Dr. Rita Sussmuth, former president of the German parliament, spoke out passionately about the need to resolve conflicts by non-violent means. "To anyone who believes that we can resolve the conflicts of today -- whether in the Middle East, in Turkey or in Africa -- by using weapons, then I can only say, you can end wars or continue wars with weapons, but not create peace.

"Peace can only be created through using other means, in which societies outlaw violence, recognize the rule of law and reject any form of resolving conflicts through violence," she said, to applause from the audience. Asked at yesterday's press conference about the issue, Ramos-Horta said: "If a genocide happens again, like in Cambodia in the 1970s, the world must intervene." But he stressed that any armed intervention needed to be approved by the United Nations: "You must use force as a last resort, but not unilaterally."

Ramos-Horta is a former guerrilla fighter (sic) for East Timor independence from Portuguese rule and a prominent campaigner against the occupation of the territory by Indonesia, which invaded in 1975 after Portugal withdrew. In 1999, he was prominent among those urging the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces to East Timor.

During the armed struggle for independence from Indonesia, Ramos-Horta said, most of the guerrilla fighters were practicing Roman Catholics -- East Timor is overwhelmingly Catholic -- and there were photographs of guerrilla fighters taking communion with M-16 machine guns on their backs.

"In East Timor the church completely understood why people took up arms, even though they [the church] kept calling on them not to use those arms," he said.

Speaking to ENI after the press conference, Ramos-Horta stated that there was "absolutely no inconsistency, no contradiction whatsoever" between the campaign to promote non-violence and the need for armed intervention "until the campaign succeeds in persuading everyone in the world that the violence must be eliminated."

"If you are faced again with a situation such as Kosovo or the Jewish holocaust in World War II, what would you do? In the name of non-violence would you sit back and watch Jews being slaughtered, would you sit back and watch Palestinians being slaughtered, would you sit back and watch Rwandans killing each other, Hutus and Tutsis? Of course you have to intervene."

Ramos-Horta also rejected suggestions that responding to such situations by violence would create further violence rather than lasting peace.

"That is obviously a good rhetorical point," he told ENI. "But if that was the case, you would see Europe, 50 years later, continuing to fighting each other. What brought World War II to an end was essentially the American and British courageous stand against Nazi Germany. Today Europe is at peace. If Nato had not intervened in Kosovo, could anyone have predicted what would have happened to the Kosovars?

"No, I don't believe that just because you use force in a manner that is authorized by international law, that is authorized by the [United Nations'] Security council, [that this] is going to cause more violence than not-intervening at all. If Vietnam had not intervened in Cambodia in the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge would still be in power today. How many more tens of thousands would have died?"

See also:

Feb 7 ELCA: Horta: some dreams have become reality
"Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta admitted the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence may be a dream but went on to say that some dreams have become reality." ELCA

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