world council of churches

world council of churches
international affairs, peace & human security

About the chair...
"The Broken Chair", a giant sculpture made in wood by Swiss artist Daniel Berset was erected by Handicap International in front of the main entrance of the United Nations Office in Geneva at the end of 1997. The Broken Chair symbolises the call from civil society to heads of States visiting Geneva. It will remain in place until the 40th ratification of the Ottawa Convention, when the treaty will come into force and become international law.


(Over 25 percent of the 1000 organisations which have joined the ICBL are church-related.)

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"The Landmines Campaign Still Needs the Churches!" is a common publication of the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches.

For more information and correspondence, or if you would like to order printed copies of the booklet (in English, French, German or Spanish), contact:

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
Rebecca Larson
P.O.Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2 / Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 791 64 28
Fax: (41 22) 791 05 28

World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC)
Seong-Won Park
P.O.Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2 / Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 791 62 36
Fax: (41 22) 791 65 05
e-mail: WCC Contact

World Council of Churches (WCC)
Mariette Grange
P.O.Box 2100 / Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 791 60 46
Fax: (41 22) 788 00 67 or 710 2068
e-mail: WCC Contact

Contents may be reproduced and translated without permission.

This text was prepared by Mariette Grange and Rebecca Larson. (May 1998)

In December of 1997 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and to its coordinator Jody Williams.

The choice of this campaign by the Nobel committee was significant in two ways:

  • it focused the attention of the world on the humanitarian crisis of anti-personnel landmines;

  • it recognised the unique cooperation which has taken place between government and civil society in moving the world towards a situation where there are no anti-personnel landmines.

Also in December of 1997 an international treaty was signed in Ottawa, Canada by 123 countries to ban anti-personnel landmines.

This landmark treaty, entitled: "Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction" set an international norm of illegality for the use, stockpiling, production and trade of landmines. The treaty also bound countries to attend to the urgent need for demining and victim assistance.

Many churches and church related organisations, including the Lutheran World Federation, (LWF), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), have been very involved in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) particularly over the last four years. This involvement has included educational work to stigmatise landmines in the public consciousness, and advocacy work to bring governments to the table to sign the treaty ban. In the field it has involved programmes of demining and support for victims.

Every 22 minutes someone somewhere around the world is killed or maimed by a landmine. WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The question which is now most often put to the ICBL and to the churches which are involved in the campaign is this: "What happens now? The treaty is signed. Isn't your job finished?"

The answer is that some of the hardest work remains. The final goal is the removal of all landmines from the ground as well as the destruction of all existing stockpiles and an end to the use of landmines. The Ottawa treaty is, so far, an excellent treaty on paper. It has now been signed by 125 countries. But now the work begins to make sure that governments ratify the treaty (make it legal in their own countries) and implement all parts of the treaty in a coordinated way. It is also necessary to challenge those countries that have not signed with the reality of the humanitarian impact of these weapons and the possibility which exists for the human community to eradicate them.


The problem of anti-personnel landmines is fundamentally humanitarian. These weapons of war kill in peacetime. Designed for soldiers, they kill and injure women and children. It is because of the indiscriminate humanitarian effects of these weapons that they are now banned in international law.

The statistics are sobering.....

Millions of mines are scattered over 70 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. The most severely affected countries are Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq (Kurdistan), Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Viet Nam.

A growing child's artifical limb should be replaced every six to twelve months and an adult's once every three to five years.

A large number of victims are alone and in isolated places when they are injured. An ICRC docctor estimates that up to 50% of mine victims die within hours of the blast.

Landmine infestation around strategic sties can deny access to safe drinking water, arable land and prevent mobile rural vaccination teams from going their rounds.

Over the last 55 years, anti-personnel mines have caused more deaths and injuries than nuclear, biological and chemical weapons combined.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that 800 people are killed by mines every month and another 1200 are maimed, a total of 2000 victims a month and close to 25,000 a year.

The UNICEF estimates that of these victims, 5000 to 6000 are children.

In the course of 1991, several non-governmental organisations and individuals began simultaneously to discuss the necessity of coordinating initiatives and calls for a ban on anti-personnel landmines. Handicap International, Human Rights Watch, Medico International, Mines Advisory Group, Physicians for Human Rights and Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation came together in October 1992 to formalise the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines is a united coalition of over 1000 human rights, humanitarian, children's, peace, veterans, medical, development, demining, arms control, religious, environmental and women's groups in 60 national campaigns committed to the goal of the total elimination of anti-personnel landmines.

At its recent General meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, February 1998, the ICBL agreed upon its priorities for 1998 in three main areas of work. It will work to universalise the treaty and it will explore a role for its members in monitoring the treaty. It will strengthen the advocacy work of the other two key pillars of the campaign - assistance and humanitarian mine clearance.

The ICBL coordination committee consists of the six founding organisations plus the Afghan Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Association to Aid Refugees - Japan, the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Colombian Campaign Against Landmines, the Inter-African Union of Human Rights, the Kenya Coalition Against Landmines, the Landmine Survivors Network, the Lutheran World Federation, Norwegian People's Aid and the South African Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Three International Ambassadors represent the ICBL in public and political fora, Jody Williams, co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, Rae McGrath and Tun Channereth.

Together we have begun to map out a way for the international community to move forward together in a coherent and coordinated way to promote and ensure the speedy and effective entry into force and ongoing implementation of the new convention. [...] I would also like us to remind ourselves that this was just the beginning. It is an ongoing commitment to partnership and cooperation that will enable us to succeed in meeting our goal of a world finally freed from the fear and suffering of anti-personnel mines.

Lloyd Axworthy
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada
Ottawa closing speech, December 4, 1997

While the negotiation of the Ottawa treaty is an historic landmark in the battle against the scourge of landmines, a tremendous amount of work remains to be done before the threat of these weapons and their appalling humanitarian consequences are effectively tackled.

Countries must be encouraged to:

Strategy ONE
Monitor the 125 governments which signed the Ottawa treaty.

Governments which signed expressed their intention to become a State party at some future date and are obliged to take no action which would undermine the object and purpose of the Convention.

The Convention remains open for signature by States at the United Nations headquarters in New York, until its entry into force, when it officially becomes international law. The treaty will enter into force 6 months after 40 ratifications have been achieved.

Look at the list of signatories to the Convention (see Appendix II) to see if your government has signed the treaty;

If your government has not signed the Convention, raise awareness on the urgent need for a landmines ban with the general public, members of government, members of parliament (through direct representations, rallies, meetings, prayer vigils and fasting, awareness-raising with the press etc.).

Some useful Websites

Handicap International (English and French):

Human Rights Watch (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish):

International Committee of the Red Cross (English and French):

International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) (English):

Mennonite Central Committee Landmines Page (English):

Stiftung Menschen gegen Minen (The Humanitarian Foundation of People against Landmines) (English, German):
Safe Lane (Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs) (English and French):

Strategy TWO
Press governments for early ratification and implementation of the treaty's provisions.

Governments which ratify that treaty undertake a wide range of commitments. Among other things, the country must ensure that anti-personnel mines are no longer used as weapons by its armed forces, end the development and production of these devices, destroy any stockpiles, and identify, mark, and clear mined areas. In many countries, implementing these obligations will require significant technical, legal and financial assistance.

If your government has signed the Convention:
  • find out if the ratification process has started;
  • if not, put pressure on your government to start such a process (you can approach your member of parliament for instance).

Strategy THREE
Work for universalisation of the treaty.

Although countries from all regions of the world supported the Ottawa process, some of the world's major landmine producers, exporters and users did not actively participate in the negotiation of the Ottawa treaty and are unlikely to adhere to it at the outset. Every effort must be made to encourage these countries to join ranks with the rest of the international community and prohibit anti-personnel landmines so that the Ottawa treaty is universally respected in the near future.

If your country has neither signed nor ratified the Convention:
  • find out if a national campaign to ban landmines already exists in your country and if so, join it. Such coalitions exist in over 60 countries (see Appendix I);
  • if no coalition exists, approach other interested church groups, NGOs, trade unions, women's groups, lawyers/bar associations, medical groups etc... and work together to create a national campaign
Strategy FOUR
Increase government support for mine-clearance and victim assistance programmes.

The Ottawa treaty is only one of the essential measures needed to address the landmine contamination problem. Vast numbers of people continue to live in mine-affected areas under daily threat from these weapons. Most landmines victims continue to have unmet medical, rehabilitative, social and economic needs which must be dealt with effectively.

Landmines are a man-made epidemic. Similarly, the solutions to this epidemic lie in our own hands. The Ottowa treaty is an important step, but only a first one.


The UN has identified 70 countries infected with mines. Between US$200 and US$250 million were pledged by governments in Ottawa for demining and rehabilitation. Early ratification by countries plagued by the scourge of landmines is likely to facilitate access to humanitarian demining programmes and victim assistance.

The Canadian government challenged nations of the world to achieve the necessary ratifications for entry into force by the end of 1998. International prestige will accompany the initial 40 countries having ratified the convention.

In countries with organised armed opposition group, advocacy efforts should systematically refer to the need for these groups to also respect the new humanitarian standard defined by the Convention.

Churches can organise a symbolic treaty-signing event for the population and present the signatures collected to their government as a token of their own citizens' commitment to a universal landmines ban:
  • pick up a strategic date and time frame in relation to your national context (the event should be planned over a few days);

  • publicise the event, involve the media;

  • prepare signature sheets with a text indicating that the signatories thereby signify their acceptance of the terms and conditions of the treaty as citizens of X country;

  • plan your event so that people can sign at public places throughout the country, in church, in shopping malls, by fax or even by calling a phone number;
  • present the signatures collected to your government, in whatever way is appropriate to your national context;

  • inform the ICBL.


Continue to monitor, monitor, monitor...!

  • keep the pressure on governments which have signed and not ratified or which which have not signed;
  • monitor the compliance of your government with the Convention requirements on the destruction of stockpiles and the clearance of mined areas;
  • monitor the commitment of your government to mine victim assistance and humanitarian mine action programmes;
  • report breaches of the Convention to the International or national campaign to ban landmines, or the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society or UNICEF who may inform the United Nations Secretary-General and raise the issue with the media.
  • Finally, keep the ICBL and/or LWF, WARC and WCC informed of your progress and undertakings.


The language used to describe the global humanitarian crisis of anti-personnel landmines is not new. It is the same language used by the human community some seventy years ago to condemn chemical weapons. The language is moral, not military; ethical not strategic. One could even say it is "church" language in that it calls into question fundamental values and practices of human life and community.

The words used are these:

Anti-personnel landmines are morally repugnant to the consciousness of humankind and as such must be condemned.

These are the words with which the world denounced the use of chemical weapons after the first world war. Now, some four generations later, these words and this sentiment is again evoked in an attempt to reveal the needless and horrific damage caused by these small but lethal weapons.

Since the time of the first world war, however, the rules of war have changed. Not longer do most conflicts take place between nations. Vicious internal civil strife is the norm where traditional codes of military conflict are irrelevant and the maiming and killing of civilians becomes the strategy of choice. In such situations anti-personnel landmines become the weapon of choice - and remain in the ground for generations after the conflict has ceased.

What is the role of churches in this situation of changed and changing warfare? Clearly, there is a need for churches to be heard concerning issues which are morally repugnant to humankind. Can the global Christian community assist in eliminating the production and use of these weapons? Can the global Christian community assist in the healing of people's bodies and of reconciliation between people and nations?

The prophet Isaiah offers one image which can serve as a model for churches's response (Isaiah 2:1-4) Here Isaiah describes the Lord's house established on the highest mountain. It is a place of refuge, sanctuary, healing and teaching. Many people, and all the nations "stream to this holy mountain". And in so doing, they turn from war:

...they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4)

One task of the church is to seek ways for nations to turn from activities of war to the "quiet miracle of daily life" of peacetime; to turn instruments of war into instruments of peace; to make the killing fields once again bear bountiful harvest so the people may be fed.

But what is one to do when the soldiers go home, but the war remains? How does one turn swords into ploughshares when the fields are inaccessible to farmers because in their rich soil the war goes on? How does one turn anti-personnel landmines, which are the twenty-first century equivalent of swords, into tools for peace?

In Cambodia, one attempt is being made to do just that. In his book War of the Mines author Paul Davies describes this scene:

One of the most striking, and hopeful, images for the future...was during one of my last days in Battambang. Traders, armed with old bicycles and huge bamboo panniers, cycle out into areas such as Rattanak Mondul, and buy up the metal debris of war from villagers who have been reclaiming their land. In particular, the metal fragmentation casings of the Soviet POMZ-2 mines are favoured. Back in Battambang they are sold on to scrap dealers who supply smelting works in Phnom Penh.

However, some of their stock reaches two smelting yards in Battambang. There scrap, including POMZ-2s is melted down, and cast into various pieces of agricultural equipment, including metal cutting teeth for the traditional bullock drawn wooden Cambodian ploughs that cut through the rich soils of Battambang. (Page 519)

The second and ultimately the only way for churches to assist in the transfer of these tools of war into the agricultural and community instruments of peace is to denounce them in clear and public ways as morally repugnant to the consciousness of humankind and to God's gracious intention and action of creation.

Churches can - and should - seek public places in which to stigmatise these weapons. This can be done in dialogue with governments, in newspapers and in discussion groups. Churches should join with other groups and people of good will to ensure the end of their production and use. They should pray fervently, for victims and victimisers alike. They should seek ways to be agents for peace and reconciliation.

This booklet provides information to assist churches in speaking out against anti-personnel landmines. At least in reference to these weapons, there is a role for churches to play to find ways to convert these swords into tools and instruments for peace and development.

Prayer & Responses
Sr. Denise Coghlan














Today we pray specially for a world of peace, a world free to celebrate and dance, a world free from mines.
We pray for families who have members killed by landmines.

Comfort them.

We pray for children, women and man struggling to build a new life.

Give them courage.

We pray for a change of heart for the producers of landmines.

May they use their engineering and business skills for development, not war.

We pray for the deminers.

Grant them safety and perseverance in their holy work.

We pray for countries severely afflicted by landmines.

May their lands be abundant with rice and corn and food, not desecrated by landmines.

We pray for heads of governments.

May they ban mines and give funds for demining and for victims assistance.

Dear God, thank you for your loving kindness. Forgive our faults; and help us to do good, not evil.

He was a solitary figure slowing making his way up and down the rows of vegetables. Occasionally he stopped to turn a leaf or examine the progress of his crop a little closer. His movement was slow, perhaps because of the heat of the day, but primarily because he had only one leg and relied on his shaky wooden crutch to move him along. His other leg had been removed at the hip and as his vegetable garden was alongside Route Ten in the North West of Cambodia one could only assume he was the victim of a landmine accident. This was further confirmed by the brightly colored red and white ribbons which surrounded his house, his neat vegetable rows, his path to the water pump and his access to the road. The simply stated signs, "Beware Mines", hung on every fence post, every tree and on small sticks around the base of his house.

Perhaps what was more horrifying was what happened next. A young girl came skipping towards him from the fields behind the house, pulling behind her a worn-out hungry oxen. The man leant on the girls shoulder to steady himself and together moved towards the house where a thin woman was waiting for them. It was such a innocent yet sinister domestic scene. It was hard to believe that all around them were time bombs, also known as anti-personnel mines waiting to explode.

I did not go to meet them. Our group was not allowed to leave the road. This whole area is extremely dangerous, they told us. One of the group had already taken two steps off the road in order to find some more shade but was yanked back towards the cars. "Don't you realize that mines are laid everywhere along this road - do not take any risks." Good advice for a group of what you might call war tourists who had come to survey the damage of years of warfare on contested land. We looked on at the family in silence - it was bit like looking at animals in the zoo. Animals who had no way out, prisoners unable to walk the earth freely and with confidence.

We were told not to take any risks, but what choice did they have? Having to flee conflict after conflict, letting armies shell the fields, drive tanks through the waterways and finally to lay mines in any piece of penetrable land. Nowhere was safe for this family - just stepping outside their house was a risk in itself. As we moved along Route Ten we found it is not just fields, but rivers, bridges, schools, temples, ponds, side roads - places of learning, of farming, of fishing, of worship.

But why do they stay? Where else do they have to go? Who will take them in? Who will provide food, plant rice for them or house them, long after the conflict had ended? In a country stricken with poverty, who will employ a one-legged farmer, or with what resources can he move his family to safer ground? Who would be willing to share their small patches of land to accommodate this one family, or for that matter the hundreds of other families who live in the same conditions? How long will it be before a de-mining team arrives in their area to liberate them from the silent killers?

As a landmine campaigner I have written in various forums - Support Victim Assistance, Give Money for De-mining, Stop the Use of Landmines. They were for so long words on a paper, miles from those affected by the situation. Now I realize it is the people miles from the situation who can make a difference, who can persuade governments to clean up their act, who can give a dollar here and a dollar there to de-mining organizations who can generate opportunities for families and farmers such as those along Route Ten.

4-6 million land mines lay under the earth in Cambodia. They say it might take 25 years to clear them all. Hundreds more farmers, soldiers, women, children, and animals fall victim to this deadly, indiscriminate weapon every year. How long will we allow families such as this to live in ongoing fear, as prisoners in their own home, taking risks daily in order to survive? Or do we in the West, in East, in the North and in the South have a serious case of out of sight, out of mind?

Emma Leslie
Frontier Intern in Mission
Working in Cambodia with the Cambodia Ecumenical Center

Lord, how can I serve you without arms?
How can I walk in your way without feet?
I was collecting sticks for the fire when I lost my arms.
I was taking the goats to water when I lost my feet.
I have a head but my head does not understand why
there are landmines in the grazing land or why
there is a trip wire across the dusty road to the market.

My heart is filled with a long ache. I want to share
your pain but I cannot. It is too deep for me. You
look at me but I cannot bear your gaze. The arms
factory provides a job for my son and my taxes paid
for the development of "smart" bombs. I did not
protest when the soldiers planted fear into the earth
that smothers the old people and the anxious
mothers, and fills the young man with hate.

Lord, we are all accomplices in the crime of war
which is a lust for power at all costs. The cost is too
much for humanity to bear.
Lord, give us back our humanity, our
Teach us to serve you without arms. Amen

Most Rev. Desmond M. Tutu

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World Council of Churches. Remarks to: webeditor