DRUG TRAFFICKING MUST BE COMBATTED
Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan
Head of Holy See's Observer Delegation to UN Special Session on Drugs

From 8 to 10 June, the General Assembly of the United Nations devoted its 20th Special Session to the fight against the illegal production, sale, demand, trafficking and distribution of narcotics and psychotropic substances. Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers and head of the Holy See's observer delegation to this Special Session, addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, 10 June. Here is a translation of his speech, which was made in Spanish.

The Holy See fully supports the fight against illegal drug trafficking. We in fact observe that the drug phenomenon is appalling in its vast proportions. It does not respect sex, age or nationality and is related to delinquency, criminality and factors associated with general decline. Many young people and adults have died or will die for this reason. The context of the drug traffic is one of sexual exploitation, the arms trade, terrorism and the destruction of family relations; this traffic is largely controlled by organizations run by highly centralized criminal groups, with the involvement of specialized personnel engaged in a wide range of activities - from chemists to experts in communications and money laundering, lawyers and security guards.

A leading cause of drug use among young people and adults is a dearth of clear, convincing motivations in life, an absence of values, the conviction that living is not worthwhile, a sense of loneliness and lack of communication, insufficient intimacy with God, a paucity of dynamic proposals on a human and spiritual level, an attempt at escapism and a social structure not offering satisfactions - all within the framework of a materialistic outlook which is destructive of human needs. Economic ambition takes possession of the hearts of many people and through the drug trade turns them into traffickers in the freedom of their brothers and sisters. This ambition is associated with major economic and even political interests.

Drug abuse is totally incompatible with Christian morality; those trafficking in drugs are merchants of death who assault mankind with the deceit of false freedoms and prospects for happiness in a nefarious form of commerce. Any significant effort at large-scale prevention demands action capable of drying up the sources and blocking the flow of this deadly current. The fight against drugs is a serious duty connected with the exercise of public responsibilities.

As regards the subject of liberalization, it must be recalled that drugs are not overcome with drugs; drugs are an evil, and concessions should not be made to evils. Experience has shown that liberalization is not a solution but a surrender. The distinction between hard and soft drugs leads into a blind alley. Drug addiction is not a matter of drugs, but of what motivates an individual to take them.

To alleviate this scourge, we suggest three types of response: prevention, control and recovery.

With respect to prevention, we must restore the human values of love and life, the only ones able to give full meaning to existence, especially when illuminated by religious faith. It is the mission of public institutions to insist on a serious policy aiming to correct situations of personal and social disorder, among which the crisis in the family, unemployment among young people, housing, social and medical services, and the school system stand out as prime considerations. A serene conviction concerning the immortality of the soul, the future resurrection of the body and personal responsibility for one's actions in the light of eternity is the surest method for such prevention.

As for control, this kind of action is not sufficient, but it is still necessary; the international mercantile and financial organization of the drug trade must be combatted; a solid front must be created, committed to denouncing and legally prosecuting the traffickers of death and eliminating the components of social and moral disintegration. An effective check must be placed upon the expansion of the market in addictive substances. The interests of those speculating in this market must be brought to light. The instruments and mechanisms it uses must be identified so as to proceed to dismantle it in co-ordinated and effective fashion.

The Holy Father John Paul II says: "My fervent exhortation and admiration [go to] the heads of government and citizens who have endeavoured to combat the production, sale and abuse of drugs, perhaps paying a very high price, even sacrificing their physical integrity.... I invite civil authorities, those with economic decision-making power and everyone with social responsibilities to continue and to intensify their efforts to improve legislation at all levels for the fight against the different kinds of drug addiction and to oppose all the forms of the drug culture and of drug traffic" (John Paul II, Message for the International Conference in Vienna, 4 June 1987; Address to Participants in the Meeting "United for Life", Vatican City, 11 October 1997).

As regards recovery, it is necessary to know the individuals who take drugs, understand their inner world, lead them to discover, or rediscover, their own dignity, and help them, as active subjects, to bring about the re-emergence and growth of the personal resources which drugs have submerged, by way of a confident new stimulus of their wills towards noble, stable ideals. The fear of the future and of commitment in adult life which is observed in young people nowadays makes them particularly fragile. They have a tendency to withdraw into themselves. The forces of death push them to hand themselves over to drugs and violence and, sometimes, to reach the point of suicide. Behind what might appear to be fascination with a kind of destruction, we must perceive in these young people a cry for help and a deep thirst for life, which ought to be taken into account so that the world will radically modify its attitudes and lifestyles.

The young people who have overcome drugs represent a hope and witness to the fact that victory is possible. For society, concerned about the drug phenomenon, they represent a new impetus for continuing the battle and committing all our energies, all our good will, for victory is possible. Many forms of action are needed to combat drug abuse effectively, but there is a central one without which nothing can be achieved: to restore, in its full force, the conviction about the transcendent, unrepeatable value of man and his responsibility for free self-realization.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
16 September 1998, page 6

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