, 16 May, 2020 / 4:33 PM
The COVID-19-related violence in the West African nation of Sierra Leone has drawn condemnation from a Bishop who has called upon all parties in the conflict to engage in “responsible dialogue” for the good of the people of God in the West African nation.
After a case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a Prison located in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, riots broke out at the correctional facility resulting in the death of seven people. In the western area of the country, fishermen attacked a police station and a health clinic after the number of boats allowed to go to the sea were reduced as part of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I condemn anyone, any institution, political parties that are inciting and advocating chaos and mayhem,” Bishop Natale Paganelli has been quoted as saying, appealing “to political parties not to fan the flames of tribalism, regionalism, revenge and division.”
Instead, the Italian-born Bishop implored all the parties in the conflict “to act responsibly in promoting the common good.”
“I call upon all people of goodwill to engage in responsible dialogue regarding matters of State, security and the welfare of all Sierra Leoneans,” Bishop Paganelli who is a member of the Xaverian Missionary Fathers said.
The 63-year-old Prelate was speaking in Sierra Leone’s Makeni diocese in the Ecclesiastical province of Freetown where he is the Apostolic Administrator.
“If we want to build a solid nation, we have to seek the common good through justice and peace. There is not any other way. Look for justice and peace,” Bishop Paganellis said at the Our Lady of Fatima Cathedral, Makeni.
The native of Italy’s Bergamo diocese who was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Makeni diocese in Sierra Leone in April 2012 regretted the divisions along tribe and the culture of vengeance in the country saying, “Our history has been blighted by tribalism, revenge, and civil war while the poor and the vulnerable bear the brunt of our madness.”
“Unfortunately, the coronavirus has not only brought fear, poverty and death but has also reinforced divisions in the country,” the Prelate lamented.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Sierra Leone at the end of March, there have been at least 447 cases of the disease; 27 patients have died and 97 have recovered.
In a broadcast message to the nation on May 8, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, termed the incidences of violence in the country as acts of “terrorism”, blaming it on members of the opposition and their supporters.
Opposition leaders who have been arrested are yet to be prosecuted in court, an action that the Bishop has termed “arbitrary” and condemned.
“I condemn arbitrary arrests and detentions without the due process of law. The rule of law should prevail at all times,” Bishop Paganelli said and called on the government to speedily investigate recent riots.
The Prelate recalled the fight against the Ebola virus that struck the country killing thousands of people saying, “Only five years ago, we experienced the tragedy of the Ebola virus. As a country, we were able to defeat the virus.”
He added in reference to the impact of the Ebola crisis, “The country ended up with a severe financial crisis that is still conditioning the lives of many Sierra Leoneans to the present day.”
“This time, the COVID-19 pandemic is more dangerous. It is an enemy which we do not know where it is hiding,” he cautioned.
He regretted that the COVID-19 pandemic had made it difficult for Christians to assemble at the Cathedral parish for the celebration of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima.
“This year, only a few of us are here. But we represent the whole diocese. All the Diocese of Makeni is spiritually present in this Cathedral. They are praying with us,” he said May 13, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
“This is a special occasion to pray to Mary, our Mother to protect our diocese, our beloved country and the whole world from this deadly virus,” Bishop Paganelli concluded referencing the Cathedral of Makeni, which is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.
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