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Iraq war would be catastrophic

ROME (CNS): An international delegation of Catholic aid agencies has warned that military strikes against Iraq would provoke an unjustifiable humanitarian catastrophe for Iraqi civilians.

“It would be a calamity of absolute proportions which the world would be ashamed (of) and shocked at,” said Julian Filochowski, who led a delegation to Iraq late last month and is director of CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales.

Speaking on Vatican Radio on October 29, Mr Filochowski said he was urging all member organisations of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic aid agencies, to pressure their governments and highlight the potential war’s inevitable disastrous humanitarian consequences, something he said has been virtually ignored in recent public debate.

He noted that the most conservative independent estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties from a potential US-led military action predicts 10,000 deaths, but he said indirect casualties would be even greater through lack of clean water, electricity and food.

For example, he said, about 14 million-16 million of Iraq’s 23 million people are “absolutely dependent” on monthly food distributions for their minimum nutrition. War and air strikes would most likely disrupt the distribution and leave as many as two-thirds of Iraqis without basic food supplies, he said.

The essential message Western Catholics should be bringing to their governments, Mr Filochowski said, is that war can and must be avoided.

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