There is Disregard for Dignity, Catholic Theologian on Why Conflicts in West Africa are Escalating

Catholic Priests attending the 10th Conference of the Regional Union of West African Priests has been organized under the Regional Union of the Diocesan Priests of West Africa (RUPWA). Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

A Catholic priest in Guinea-Bissau has blamed the escalation of violence and other forms of conflicts in West African countries on the failure to treat individuals and groups in the region with dignity.

Speaking during the general assembly of priests in West Africa who are meeting in Guinea-Bissau, Fr. Domingos Ca, the Professor of Biblical Theology at the Major Seminary of Bissau said injustices in most West African countries are escalating into “irreversible ruptures”.

“Although it is not within our remit to make an in-depth analysis of the situation in our sub-region, we have nevertheless been able to see that the sometimes lack of recognition of the equal dignity and rights of individuals and groups leads to conflicts and injustices which, from a distance, degenerate into bloody and irreversible ruptures within families and groups,” Fr. Domingos said during his Thursday, June 6 presentation.

He added, “Today, more than ever, and especially in countries undergoing democratic upheaval, people are demanding their rights to dignity, freedom, national unity, all in justice and love.”

The 10th Conference of the Regional Union of West African Priests has been organized under the Regional Union of the Diocesan Priests of West Africa (RUPWA) on the theme “The prophetic role of priests in the face of intolerance and ethnic-religious instrumentalization in Sub-Saharan Africa”.


In his presentation, Fr. Domingos said that achieving fundamental rights for individuals and groups entails justice and love which will in turn culminate in peaceful coexistence.

The Catholic Theologian underlined the need for the West African nation to brace for the new challenges for peace and justice to be realized in the region.

“Our action must be aimed first and foremost at those men and nations who, due to various forms of oppression and the very nature of our societies, are silent victims of injustice and, even more so, victims of injustice without a voice,” he said.

In his presentation, Fr. Domingos said that injustice in the West African region can also be seen in religious intolerance where some people are persecuted because of their faith or are deprived of religious freedom.

He said that in some West African countries, some people are prohibited from honoring God with public worship. Others, he said, are prevented from teaching and publicly spreading their faith.

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“Justice is also violated by old and new forms of oppression that derive from the restriction of individual rights, both in the repressions exercised by political power and in the violence carried out by private reactions, which go to the extreme limit of not respecting the basic conditions of personal integrity.”

“Cases of torture are well known, especially against political prisoners, who are often denied a normal trial, or who are subjected to arbitrary trials,” he said.

To address some of these conflicts and injustices that emanate from suppressed dignity and individual rights, Fr. Domingos said the Church must come up strongly and intensify teachings on justice and love among the people of God.

“The Church is not the only one responsible for justice in the world, but she does have her specific responsibility, which is identified with her mission to bear witness before the world to the demand for love and justice contained in the Gospel message; a witness which, however, must take place in ecclesial institutions, in the lives of pastors and Christians,” he said.

He added, “If the Church is to bear witness to justice, she recognizes that whoever wishes to speak to people about justice must himself be just in the eyes of those same people.”


“It is therefore advisable that we make an examination of conscience about the ways of acting, the possessions, and the lifestyle that takes place within the Church,” he said, adding that “our examination of conscience extends to everyone's lifestyle: the Bishops, the priests, the men and women religious and the laity.”

Fr. Domingos  underlined the need for the Church “to wage a peaceful struggle” for the establishment of political and socio-economic systems that respect human dignity.

“Conflict, even latent conflict, usually begins when a right is ignored or violated,” he said, and added, “Africa will know peace when states governed by the rule of law are established on the continent. The Church must contribute effectively to this, in particular by forming consciences and teaching her social doctrine.”


Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.