Vatican Says Use of Force by U.S. Can Be Justified
By Sharon LaFraniere
Tuesday, September 25, 2001; Page A14
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sept. 24 -- The Vatican's senior spokesman said today that John Paul II understands the United States might need to use force against terrorists as a last resort to protect its people from further harm.
The pope today referred more directly than he has in the past two weeks to allegations that Islamic extremists were responsible for the U.S. attacks. He told a group of artists, scientists and teachers here in the Kazakh capital that the Roman Catholic Church respects "authentic Islam, the Islam that prays." Mentioning acts "of the most recent past" -- taken as a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks -- the pontiff said that "hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God."
John Paul's views on the crisis are significant not just because he leads the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics, but also because people of many faiths look to him as a moral compass. His trip to this predominately Muslim nation between Russia and China was a fresh illustration of his popularity. On Sunday, the 81-year-old pontiff drew a crowd of 20,000 to an open-air Mass in a country where Catholics make up less than 2 percent of the 15 million inhabitants. He leaves Tuesday for three days in Armenia.
country has steered clear of conflicts with the Islamic extremists who have troubled other Central Asian nations.
At a news conference today, Nazarbayev repeated that the United States is welcome to use Kazakhstan's military bases and airspace to fight terrorists in Afghanistan. The United States has not requested his country's help, but if it does, "Kazakhstan will answer them positively," he said.
Pope, in Central Asia, Speaks Out Against Any Overzealous Military Response by the U.S.
By MELINDA HENNEBERGER
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sept. 23 - At an outdoor Mass attended mostly by Muslims, Pope John Paul II spoke out today against an overzealous military response to terrorist attacks on the United States and said a religious war was a contradiction in terms.
In remarks that seemed to speak to both the United States and Islamic militants, he said that "we must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions" between Muslims and Christians, adding, "Religion must never be used as a reason for conflict."
Though obviously under great physical strain, the 81-year-old pope, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, was forceful in his remarks to the crowd in Motherland Square here, which ended, "With all my heart, I beg God to keep the world in peace."
"Certainly there is a risk, and everyone sees it," Dr. Navarro-Valls, the pope's spokesman said. "It's clear there are fears in Kazakhstan about the situation." But he added: "The pope is here to stress that the present situation cannot be interpreted as a conflict between Islam and Christians or between Islam and the Western world. This would be dangerous and does not reflect reality. The pope is trying to stress that Muslims and Christians can live together, work together and pray together as is happening now in Kazakhstan."
Both Muslims and Christians in the crowd of 25,000 about three- quarters Muslim, according to official estimates said there was no real tension here between different brands of believers in this former Soviet republic, all of whom suffered under Stalin and throughout the Soviet era.
They have been through a lot together. A Roman Catholic nun from Slovakia, Sister Magdalena Sumilasova, who is a missionary here, said, "I've heard people who were deported here in Stalinist times say the Kazakh people helped us, gave us bread and a roof, and kept us from dying of hunger." Even she, who is actively pursuing converts, said tensions between religious groups remained relatively low. "Some Orthodox priests have a positive attitude toward us, and some consider us a sect but the people don't see a big difference," she said. Her church also has good relations with local Muslim groups, she said.
And people here of all faiths, and none, said they were moved and frankly amazed that he had come.
One young woman with no religious affiliation said she had traveled 20 hours by bus to see him. Irena Sokoloyskya, a 17-year-old Roman Catholic convert from an Orthodox family, said: "It's a very important thing for our community and our country. Religious people must be only for peace."
A Ukrainian Catholic woman whose parents were deported here in 1936 said she never thought that she would see the day when she could pray in the open, let alone in the town square with the pope himself. "It's the joy of our lives to the see the Holy Father," said Nina Snezhko, 58, near tears. "Now I can die in peace."
"When I was young," she said, "my prayer had to be a big secret. It was dangerous to be a Catholic or to be a religious person. But we have our own church now, and it is wonderful." The Ukrainian Catholics follow an Eastern rite liturgy but are loyal to the pope. In her parish in Taincha, she said, Muslim friends are invited to their holiday events and vice versa.
The number of Catholics here is shrinking, though. About 200,000 of the half million Roman Catholics who lived here have gone back to Poland, Germany or Ukraine since Kazakhstan became independent in 1991.
Some Muslims in the crowd said the pope transcends differences between faiths, and one mentioned approvingly that he was the first pope to visit a mosque.
Tuleghen Tansyupaeyer, a 35- year-old Muslim, said that he, a little like the pope, had come here partly in response to the international situation. "What happened in America is a disaster for everyone Muslims, Christians," he said.
Mr. Nazarbayev said he had been "deeply touched" by the Pope's remarks at the Mass. "I am on your side when you speak of the civilization of love and trust among faiths," he said. But he also told the pope that Kazakhstan was prepared to join a coalition to pursue terrorists. "No country, no matter how big, can fight terrorism on its own," he said.
Tonight, the pope met with a crowd of wildly cheering university students at a concert of traditional Kazakh music. One by one, the student musicians came forward to hug him at the end.
When the students clapped for the pope, he clapped for them in return, with considerable effort. As he left, they chanted, "Do svidanya" "till we meet again" in Russian and he answered: "Do svidanya. We'll see each other in Rome."
Kazakh Leader Offers Full Support for U.S. Strike
September 24, 2001, Filed at 6:47 a.m. ET
ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakhstan became the first ex-Soviet state to promise practical support to the U.S. war on ''terrorism'' on Monday, offering its strategically vital aerodromes and bases for a potential strike on Afghanistan.
``Kazakhstan is ready to support an action against terrorism with all the means it has at its disposal,'' President Nursultan Nazarbayev told a news conference in the capital Astana, after denouncing the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Asked whether support would include use of aerodromes, military bases and airspace, Nazarbayev said firmly: ``these means include everything you have just enumerated.''
``We have so far received no concrete requests for such help but if they come Kazakhstan will consider them positively,'' he said, adding that he was consulting with other Central Asian leaders on how to fight ``terror.''
The region could be a vital staging area for any strike against Afghanistan, which the U.S. says is harbouring its prime suspect for the attacks, Saudi-born billionaire Osama bin-Laden.
The southern border of vast Kazakhstan, a mostly Muslim nation which is currently hosting a visit by Pope John Paul, is just 200 miles from Afghanistan.
Nazarbayev said Central Asia's leaders had long warned the West of the dangers of ``international terrorism,'' but had been ignored, with the disastrous consequences wrought on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
``Such indulgence of terrorism, demonstrated for many years, finally led to this tragedy,'' he said, stressing Kazakhstan's determination to underline its warnings with action.
``Not participating actively when there is talk about a real fight would be dishonest, and Kazhakhstan will not behave this way,'' Nazarbayev said, while adding that actual Kazakh military participation in any strike on Afghanistan was unlikely. ``I don't think it will come to that,'' he said.
Pope Pays Tribute to Victims of Soviet Atrocities
September 24, 2001, Filed at 1:40 a.m. ET
ASTANA (Reuters) - Pope John Paul, speaking in a land that was once home to Stalinist gulags, paid moving tribute on Monday to the millions of people who suffered ridicule, imprisonment and death for their faith during the Soviet era.
The 81-year-old Pope, who lived through the Nazi occupation and later communist domination of his native Poland, made his tribute at a morning mass on the penultimate day of his trip to Kazakhstan.
His visit to the Central Asian republic so far has been dominated by his concerns that the world may slide into war following the attacks in the United States.
On Sunday he issued a pressing peace appeal from this sprawling mostly Muslin nation, whose southern border is only 200 miles from Afghanistan, base of the militant Osama bin Laden, who Washington holds responsible for the attacks.
Hours later, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his country was ready to join a coalition of states to fight terrorism.
Speaking in Astana's Roman Catholic cathedral, which is smaller than most neighborhood parish churches in Italy, the Pope took his mind off the possibility of war for a moment and turned his attention to the grim past of the Soviet era.
``My thoughts turn at this time to your communities, once scattered and sorely tried. In heart and in spirit I relive the unspeakable trials of all those who suffered not only physical exile and imprisonment, but public ridicule and violence because they chose not to renounce their faith,'' he said in his sermon.
Kazakhstan's some 180,000 Roman Catholics could squeeze into St. Peter's Square and its environs but the church enjoys good relations with the Muslim community of some 8 million.
Kazakhstan was home to 16 of the many camps that made up the Gulag Archipelago, immortalized by Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his 1973 book.
More than two million people, including more than 900,000 ethnic Germans, were forced to migrate to Kazakhstan during Stalin's forced collectivization campaign, his crackdown on Catholics and banishing of peoples seen as ``unreliable.''
Historians say another 2.14 million people were sent to prison camps in the Karaganda area, where many perished from illness, hunger and sub-freezing temperatures.
Outside Astana, there once stood the ALZHIR camp, one of the most notorious in the archipelago, which was reserved for the wives of men considered ``enemies of the people'' by Stalin.
Modest obelisks and wooden crosses dot the endless, windswept steppe, where crumbling barracks and watchtowers stand as eerie reminders of past atrocities, some known only to God.
Pope Decries Wars Over Faith
In Volatile Central Asia, Pontiff Pleads for Tolerance
By Sharon LaFraniere
Monday, September 24, 2001; Page A13
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sept. 23 -- In a special prayer at the end of an open-air Mass, Pope John Paul II today urged Christians and Muslims to react to growing international tensions by working together for peace, saying, "religion must never be used as a reason for conflict."
"We must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions," the pope said in the capital of this former Soviet republic in Central Asia. "With all my heart I beg God to keep the world in peace."
His words held special meaning for many of the nearly 20,000 people who read from prayer booklets and waved yellow flags from behind blue iron barriers as the frail pontiff celebrated Mass before a simple wooden altar under sunny skies in the town's central square.
Although Kazakhstan has so far escaped the Islamic extremism that troubles some of its neighbors, its citizens fear that a war in nearby Afghanistan could upset the religious harmony among the many faiths and nationalities in this vast land of barren steppe and mountains between Russia and China.
The Mass was attended by an unusual mix of Muslims, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholics and people of no particular faith. Their nationalities were even more diverse, a reflection of the more than 2 million people deported to Kazakhstan by Joseph Stalin.
The 81-year-old pope sought to include all faiths in his message of peace and reconciliation. "I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, that we work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows in justice and solidarity," he said in a final prayer repeated in German, English, Russian and Kazakh and not included in his prepared text.
The pope alluded to security concerns tonight at Astana's Eurasia University when he advised students to "experience difference not as a threat but as an enrichment" and to focus on the good they can create more than the evils in Kazakhstan's past. "I was told many times that this trip would not be possible because of what happened in the U.S.," he said. "I am very happy I am in this part of the world now."
So was Andrei Yermashov, an unemployed 37-year-old who came by train from Karaganda to attend the Mass. Yermashov, who said he hopes to be baptized soon, praised the pope as a beacon of peace and reason.
The Pope, in Central Asia, Urges Peace
By MELINDA HENNEBERGER
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sept. 22 Pope John Paul II, who has been urging restraint in response to last week's terrorist attacks on the United States, obliquely spoke against war in his first remarks here this evening.
"Controversies must be resolved not by recourse to arms but by peaceful means of negotiation and dialogue," the pope said during a welcoming ceremony, in remarks praising Kazakhstan for closing a nuclear site here and for banning all atomic testing after gaining independence from the former Soviet Union 10 years ago. "I can only encourage this type of commitment," he said in Russian.
The pope never mentioned the United States directly, though his host, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, did, saying he was grateful that the pontiff had come "despite the great disaster in the U.S."
But the very sight of the stooped, palsied 81-year-old pope shuffling determinedly toward the podium to deliver his remarks was a statement that, as he had told aides earlier in the week, he felt it was more important than ever after the attacks to carry on and to speak of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians here in Central Asia.
He told the crowd not to give in to fear. Referring to the sad history of this land, where hundreds of thousands of Catholics were among those sent to freeze and die in camps that were part of the Soviet gulag, the pope said, "Kazakhstan, land of martyrs and of believers, land of deportees and of heroes, land of intellectuals and artists, do not be afraid!"
Pope Makes Dramatic Appeal for World to Avoid War
September 23, 2001, Filed at 2:39 a.m. ET
ASTANA (Reuters) - Pope John Paul issued a dramatic appeal on Sunday that the world should not slide into war following the attacks on the United States.
``With all my heart, I beg God to keep the world in peace,'' the 81-year-old Pope said at the end of a mass for some 50,000 people in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian republic which may be caught up in an eventual regional crisis after the attacks.
``We must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions. Religion must never be used as a reason for conflict,'' he said, referring to tensions with some parts of the Islamic world following the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.
``I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, that we work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life and grows in justice and solidarity,'' he said, reading in English.
``From this place, I invite both Christians and Muslims to raise an intense prayer to the one, almighty God whose children we all are, that the supreme good of peace may reign in the world.
``May people everywhere, strengthened by divine wisdom, work for a civilization of love, in which there is no room for hatred, discrimination or violence,'' he said.
Pope visits amid tight security
By Victor L. Simpson
ASTANA, Kazakhstan Pope John Paul II arrived yesterday in this predominantly Muslim nation and was welcomed as a voice of reason in the region that has been tense since the terrorist attacks in the United States.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev thanked the pope for going ahead with the visit despite the "troubled situation in the world" and praised him for stressing that religion should not be blamed for the attacks, "thus protecting the world from Islamophobia." "The tragedy that happened in the United States presents a threat of division and confrontation between civilizations and religions," he said.
Authorities in the former Soviet republics that lie between Russia and Afghanistan have expressed concerns about militant Islam. Mr. Nazarbayev predicted last year that Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban rulers and Osama bin Laden, now the prime suspect in the U.S. terrorist attacks, would target Kazakhstan and Central Asia in the coming years.
The frail 81-year-old pontiff was severely stooped as he descended from his plane, with aides close by to assist him. He blessed a basket of Kazakh soil presented by two women in traditional embroidered costumes.
His hands trembled and his voice was slurred, symptoms of Parkinson's disease. A small podium placed on his lap toppled, and Mr. Nazarbayev bent down and retrieved the pages of his speech.
"I greet the Islamic leaders and faithful, who boast a long religious tradition in this region," the pope said. Kazakhstan's top Islamic leader, the grand mufti, was among the dignitaries.
Roman Catholics make up just 2 percent to 3 percent of the population of 15 million in Kazakhstan, a country four times the size of Texas. The majority religions are Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity.
Pope Urges Tolerance In Central Asian Visit
By Sharon LaFraniere
Sunday, September 23, 2001; Page A32
ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Sept. 22 -- Pope John Paul II arrived today in this predominantly Muslim state in tense Central Asia, bearing a message of good wishes for Islamic leaders and for "all people of good will" who seek peace.
His decision to travel here despite the signs of an approaching war to the south touched many Muslims. Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's president, praised the pope's courage and his message of tolerance in the face of apparently growing divisions in the world.
Erlan Idrisov, Kazakhstan's foreign minister, promised "Kazakhstan will be quiet" no matter what happens in Afghanistan. He said security measures were
unprecedented, with more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers on hand.
The pope's three-day trip to Kazakhstan, to be followed by a three-day visit to Armenia, illustrates his penchant for traveling to places where his welcome is not entirely certain. Although Nazarbayev formally invited the pope, and greeted him with a stiff-legged, arm-waving parade of soldiers, there are few Roman Catholics here.
Catholics account for a tiny fraction of Kazakhstan's 15 million people. Most are from Polish, Ukrainian or German families who were among the hundreds of thousands deported here by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. In a country that spans 2,000 miles from east to west, there are only 62 priests and 74 nuns. More than half of the country is Muslim; about 40 percent is Russian Orthodox.
Still, in the square outside Astana's new glass-and-concrete shopping center, Muslims and Orthodox Christians said they welcomed the pope as a spokesman for peace and tolerance in a moment of trouble and fear. A 36-year-old single mother, who gave her name only as Zulfira, said John Paul's visit "is very, very good." "It is a sign of recognition and respect toward the Muslim religion. This awful tragedy in America -- I think their attitude toward Muslims is very negative.
But we all know that not all Muslims are the same," she said.
Alla Borisovna, 60, who was collecting flower seeds along a river bank with a white wool shawl on her head, praised the pope as "a symbol of kindness" in "a very cruel world." Borisovna and others said they were moved by the pope's gesture to victims of Stalinist repression. Traveling from the airport to the city on a road lined with well-wishers waving scarfs and billboards bearing his picture, John Paul stopped to say a silent prayer and lay a wreath at a memorial for Stalin's victims.
Pope to Leave for Kazakhstan and Armenia This Weekend
By MELINDA HENNEBERGER
ROME, Sept. 20 Despite some nervousness at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II has insisted that he will leave on Saturday for a trip to Kazakhstan, where officials are planning "unprecedented" security measures during his four-day visit.
Kazakhstan, where Muslims are a slight majority, is struggling to keep out Islamic radicals like those who have been fighting sporadically in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for the last two years. Militants in those countries are believed to have been trained in Afghanistan, home to Osama bin Laden, who the United States suspects is behind the attacks in New York and Washington.
The entire region is on edge waiting for the United States to retaliate, though ethnic and religious tensions in Kazakhstan itself remain relatively low. The Vatican says it has no evidence of threats against the pope. In the past, papal trips to Northern Ireland and Sarajevo, Bosnia, have been canceled over security concerns.
When aides have raised security concerns, the pope has said it is even more important now to reach out to Muslims in Central Asia.
His hosts will have 2,400 soldiers and police officers patrolling the streets of the capital city, Astana, while he is there.
"Given the situation in Afghanistan, we are on alert," Erlan Idrisov, the foreign minister of Kazakhstan, said in an interview today. Of Islamic radicals in nearby countries, he said, "There are signs there are attempts to send that evil to Kazakhstan, but we want to stay free of the disease."
That is one reason the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, lobbied for the pope to visit in the first place. The country's multi-ethnic population of 15 million includes some 8 million Muslims, 6 million Orthodox Christians and about 300,000 Roman Catholics, most of them from families deported to there by Stalin.
The 81-year-old pope's determination to make the trip now reflects one of his most cherished goals: bringing Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians closer together. Vatican officials believe that he may actually have a better chance now if only because the Orthodox may for the moment be more likely to see Catholics less as the competition than as comrades in common cause against Islamic radicals.
* * *