Stella Maris joins global call for increased security, end to piracy in West Africa

Stella Maris joins global call for increased security, end to piracy in West Africa

A naval officer mans a machine gun on a boat off the Atlantic coast in Nigeria's Bayelsa state in this Dec. 19, 2013, file photo. Stella Maris, a global maritime charity supporting seafarers, has joined a global call for ending piracy and improving security in the waters of West Africa. (Credit: CNS photo/Reuters.)

Stella Maris has joined in a global call for ending piracy and improving security in the waters of West Africa.

ROME — Stella Maris has joined in a global call for ending piracy and improving security in the waters of West Africa.

Responding to increasing concerns and attacks in the region, representatives from the maritime and shipping industry drafted the Gulf of Guinea Declaration on the Suppression of Piracy in mid-May, calling for concrete action to end the threat of piracy in the region.

As of May 28, more than 280 organizations had signed on to show their support, including Stella Maris, the largest ship-visiting network in the world, dedicated to helping seafarers and fishers through its network of local chaplains and centers.

“We fully support the efforts by all parties in the fight against piracy,” said Father Bruno Ciceri, international director of Stella Maris at the Vatican, who signed the declaration on behalf of the organization.

“It is unacceptable that seafarers, unsung heroes who keep world trade moving, continue to be subjected to pirate attacks. Aside from disrupting the global economy, the persistent threat of danger and harm puts considerable stress on seafarers and their families,” he said in a statement reported by Vatican News May 27 and published at stellamaris.org.uk.

The declaration says, “Every person deserves to be safe while carrying out their work, and to be able to return to their homes without being victims of violent crime. Seafarers deserve no less.”

However, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has become “a curse for seafarers over the past decade” as they run the risk of being kidnapped at gunpoint for ransom.

The violence, scope and sophistication of attacks on shipping have increased, it said. The principal pirate bases are located within the Niger Delta.

Those who sign onto the new declaration become part of a new coalition aimed at ending the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and commit to a list of actionable measures for enhancing security and raising awareness.

Ciceri said Stella Maris hopes governments and enforcement agencies can find a more permanent and long-term solution to the problem of piracy and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We urge hijacked seafarers and fishers not to lose hope that they will be soon reunited with their loved ones and to remain strong in their faith,” he said. “Families of the hijacked seafarers and fishers can also contact us for assistance and support.”

“We encourage the faithful to pray to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, to protect seafarers and fishers from all dangers and to support those who have been, and continue to be, affected by piracy,”

Stella Maris chaplains supported seafarers in three piracy cases in 2020, providing pastoral care to the crew members affected by the attacks, Vatican News said.

The charity works in more than 320 ports in 56 countries and has more than 1,000 chaplains and volunteers worldwide.

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