, 30 March, 2020 / 5:30 AM
Pope Francis appealed for a global ceasefire on Sunday as countries work to defend their populations from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The current emergency of COVID-19 … knows no borders,” Pope Francis said March 29 in his Angelus broadcast.
The pope urged nations in conflict to respond to an appeal made by the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on March 23 for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” to “focus together on the true fight of our lives,” the “battle” against the coronavirus.
The pope said: “I invite everyone to follow up by stopping all forms of war hostility, promoting the creation of corridors for humanitarian aid, openness to diplomacy, attention to those in a situation of greater vulnerability.”
“Conflicts are not resolved through war,” he added. “It is necessary to overcome antagonism and differences through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”
After first appearing in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the coronavirus has now spread to more than 180 countries.
The UN Secretary General said that a global ceasefire would “help create corridors for life-saving aid” and “bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” He pointed out that refugee camps and people with existing health conditions are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses.”
Guterres appealed in particular to those fighting in Yemen to end hostilities, as UN humanitarian advocates fear the potentially devastating consequences of a Yemeni COVID-19 outbreak because the country already faces a significant humanitarian crisis.
Both the Saudi-led forces and Iran-aligned Houthi movement fighting in Yemen both responded to the UN appeal for a ceasefire on March 25, according to Reuters.
“The joint commitment against the pandemic can lead everyone to recognize our need to strengthen fraternal bonds as members of a single family,” Pope Francis said.
The pope also appealed for government authorities to be sensitive to the vulnerability of prisoners during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I read an official memo from the Human Rights Commission that talks about the problem of overcrowded prisons, which could become a tragedy,” he said.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet issued a warning on March 25 about the potentially devastating effects COVID-19 could have in overcrowded prisons and immigrant detention centers around the world.
“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said.
“With outbreaks of the disease, and an increasing number of deaths, already reported in prisons and other institutions in an expanding number of countries, authorities should act now to prevent further loss of life among detainees and staff,” she said.
The High Commissioner also appealed for governments to release political prisoners and to implement health measures in other facilities where people are confined together, such as mental health facilities, nursing homes, and orphanages.
“At this moment my thoughts go in a special way to all people who suffer the vulnerability of being forced to live in a group,” Pope Francis said.
“I ask the authorities to be sensitive to this serious problem and to take the necessary measures to avoid future tragedies," he said.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa