#Human Rights
The Vatican

During its 1935-’41 occupation of Ethiopia, Fascist Italy, supported by the Vatican, committed the crime of genocide against the Ethiopian people with poisonous gas sprayed from airplanes and other horrific atrocities, while the Vatican remained “conspicuously silent.”

Emperor Haile Selassie I, the King of Kings of Ethiopia, provided the following eyewitness account to the League of Nations on June 30, 1936; but sadly, His Majesty’s plea “fell upon deaf ears”:

“A mechanism spraying yperite liquid was installed in the aircraft and it was arranged that a fine rain bringing death should descend over vast tracts of country. At one time, nine, fifteen or eighteen Italian aeroplanes were going to and fro bringing down an unceasing rain of yperite. From the end of January 1936 onwards, this death-dealing rain descended uninterruptedly upon our soldiers, upon women, children, cattle, streams, stagnant waters as well as pastures. The Italian army commander made the aeroplanes repeat this work of theirs, in order to extinguish completely all living creatures and to turn into poison the waters and grazing grounds. He made this the principal means of warfare. This work of cruelty, carried out with some finesse, annihilated people in places far removed from the battlefield and made their country into a desert. The plan was to spread terror and death over the greater part of Ethiopia. This most deplorable scheme was eventually accomplished. Man and beast perished completely. The deadly downpour that descended from the aircraft made anyone who touched it fly with torment. Those who drank the water upon which this poisonous rain had settled or ate the food which the poison had touched died in dreadful agony. The people who died as a result of the Italian yperite must be reckoned in many thousands (the reader is reminded that this observation was made at the onset of the aerial gassing campaign, in January 1936). It was to make known to the civilized world the torment inflicted upon the Ethiopian people that I decided to come to Geneva.”

On May 5, 1941, the Ethiopian government reported that, “...provisional estimates of the slaughter of Ethiopians, from the evidence thus far investigated, is 760,000;” however, the report concluded that “these figures are not final," however, based on interviews with surviving Ethiopian Patriots, in Addis Ababa and America between 2000 and 2004, a more conservative estimate of Ethiopian causalities would be “no less than one million.”

Despite the fact that the British Foreign Office formally established a War Crimes Commission in 1943, and the United Nations and the International World Court at the Hague were established in the United States in 1945, and the International Genocide Convention and the Declaration of Human Rights were adopted in 1948, each one of these international human rights organs and instruments excluded any mention of the genocide of the Ethiopian people; as such, no fascist Italian has ever been held accountable for war crimes against humanity in Ethiopia from 1935-1941, though this atrocity occurred within the same timeframe as the one that took place in Europe.

In 1998, the UN celebrated its 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights in Rome by returning to the issue of international genocide and once again, the Ethiopian genocide of 1935-1941 was ignored. Mysteriously, the details of this horrific atrocity continue to be stricken from the annals of the world’s history books and United Nations genocide archives and related documents, until this very day. Such historical omissions make it appear as if the fascist genocide of the Ethiopian people never happened; consequently, justice for Ethiopia has remained “a fleeting illusion” for the past seventy-three years.

We, the undersigned, appeal to the international community...all Governments, the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, Amnesty International, non-governmental institutions, World Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, other regional organizations, and all people of right action and goodwill throughout the world to call upon the Vatican to acknowledge and apologize to Ethiopians for its complicity with the Fascists who perpetrated unspeakable war crimes against humanity in Ethiopia during the Fascist Italian occupation of that country from1935-1941.

Vatican officials and clergy, under the spiritual leadership of Pope Pius XI, blessed Mussolini’s Fascist army on its way to carry out a systematic mass extermination campaign in Ethiopia that claimed the lives of no less than one million people, including the entire monastic community at the Debre Libanos Monastery, the destruction of 2,000 churches, 525,000 homes and the perpetration of havoc upon the environment. Human beings and animals who relied on the environment for air, water and food died in great numbers from horrific atrocities including poison gas sprayed from Fascist airplanes, over battlefields and remote rural areas, while the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, and 52 world governments and The Vatican stood by silently and watched.

Though Mussolini’s systematic genocide of the Ethiopian people from 1935-1941 occurred virtually within the same timeframe as Hitler’s Nazi holocaust against the Jews from 1933-1941, nevertheless, the Fascist genocide in Ethiopia is excluded from the annals of the world’s history books and from historical genocide documents at the United Nations. While the Vatican has graciously apologized to Jews for its silence during the Nazi holocaust, it has never extended the same Christian courtesy to Ethiopians although, in their case, the Vatican was directly complicit in Fascist atrocities in Ethiopia. The Vatican’s silence and the United Nations disregard of the genocide against the Ethiopian people is counter to the principles of human rights and justice and continues to have a negative impact on every generation of all peace loving people including those of African origin.

Discrete efforts to elicit a Vatican apology have so far remained unanswered. We, therefore, have to appeal to the international community to demand a full, public apology by the Vatican for its complicity with the Fascists who perpetrated untold war crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

On behalf of the innocent victims of Fascist atrocities in Ethiopia from 1935-1941, we thank you for your support.


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The Ethiopian Genocide 1935-1941 and Vatican Complicities petition to The Vatican was written by GlobalAlliance and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.