, 15 July, 2020 / 8:03 PM
Religious leaders in the West African nation of Mali have appealed for calm and peaceful dialogue following days of violent protests and unrest in the country’s capital, Bamako.
On Friday, July 10, members of the so-called “June 5th movement” who are calling for the resignation of Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, and the creation of a transitional government clashed with security agencies leading to at least 11 fatalities and more than 100 others injured, Aljazeera reported.
“We are greatly concerned about the upsurge in violence in Bamako. We use this opportunity to launch an appeal for peace, with regard to all the damages caused. Mali does not deserve what is happening now,” Jean Cardinal Zerbo told Mali’s National Radio and Television, ORTM, Tuesday, July 14.
“What happened last Friday and which continues today in the nation’s capital Bamako is a cause for concern,” Cardinal Zerbo said in reference to street protests by members of the so-called “June 5th movement” and added, “Inciting people to engage in violence which we see the consequences today is unacceptable. We can only resort to God’s clemency for all the atrocities committed during these protests.”
The Malian Prelate has invited parties in conflict to dialogue saying, “The warring parties should engage in a fruitful dialogue to seek lasting solutions to the problems affecting the nation.”
“We are calling on the entire Christian community to pray for a return to peace in our country,” the 76-year-old Cardinal implored.
At the beginning of the week, Malian authorities freed political opponents who had been detained by security agencies following protests against the president over the weekend, a media report indicates.
“The demonstrations are being driven by the M5-RFP, a disparate group of religious leaders, political and civil society members calling for "civil disobedience", including non-payment of fines and blocking entry to state buildings,” Aljazeera reported July 14.
In a separate interview with ORTM, the President of the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCI), Cherif Ousmane Madani Hadaira, appealed for peaceful resolution of the standoff and proposed dialogue as “the only means of finding a solution to the current crisis.”
“I call on the citizens to calm down. Whatever the difficulties, when we engage in a real dialogue, we can have a solution,” the Muslim leader told ORTM in an interview.
He pointed out that “the current situation will only aggravate the country’s difficulties” and assured the citizens that the religious leaders are doing their best to help find solutions to the unrest.
Cherif Ousmane also called on President Keïta to release the members of the M5-RFP who were arrested after the demonstrations and invited him to dialogue with them.
“We have to talk to each other; we have to tell ourselves the truth,” Cherif Ousmane said and reiterated, “All that can bring the country out of the crisis is dialogue.”
Also speaking during to ORTM, the President of the Association of Evangelical Protestant Church Groups and Mission in Mali (AGEMPEM), Rev. Nouh Ag Infa Yattara, said “No son, no daughter can be indifferent to this situation. Only dialogue can resolve the current crisis.”
Rev. Yattara called on the faithful exercise calmness and to pray for peace in Mali saying, “We appeal for calm to all Malians. AGEMPEM particularly calls on all the evangelical Christian faithful to pray for the restoration of all wounded hearts in all the bereaved families and prompt recovery to the wounded.”
Last month, Cardinal Zerbo challenged religious leaders to take up the role of safeguarding peace in the example of sentinels and foster dialogue to end the protracted armed conflict in the West African nation.
“It is also essential to always keep prayer alive for the country and for the protagonists so that God converts the heart,” the Malian Cardinal had said, adding, “Now, it can be said, that the heart of many is of stone, it is up to us to make it flesh. Religions here seek a common line to promote peace.”
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