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Resolve “differences amicably, in spirit of respect, trust”: Bishops in Ethiopia

Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia pray for an end to violence in the Horn of Africa nation.

Following tensions between Ethiopia’s Federal government and the leadership of Tigray Regional State, Catholic Bishops in the Horn of Africa nation have appealed to both parties to resolve their differences amicably, in a spirit of mutual “respect and trust.”

The Ethiopian government on Wednesday, November 4 declared a state of emergency in Tigray State, ordering “a military offensive, after an army base was taken over by forces loyal to the regional government of Tigray,” according to BBC News report November 4.

In a statement issued Wednesday, November 4, Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia “urge both parties to resolve their differences amicably, in a spirit of respect, understanding, and trust.” 

The leadership of the Ethiopian Catholic Church "wishes and prays for the people to live together in respect, concertation, and dialogue and to work together for the prosperity of their common country.”

In his November 4 statement justifying the military offensive order, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, “This situation has reached a level where it cannot be prevented and controlled through the regular law enforcement mechanisms.”

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“Our defence forces … have been ordered to carry out their mission to save the country. The final point of the red line has been crossed. Force is being used as the last measure to save the people and the country,” The Prime Minister added.

In their November 4 statement signed by the head of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, Berhaneyesus Cardinal Souraphiel, the Bishops explain, “Efforts by religious leaders, elders, and other stakeholders to defuse the ongoing conflict between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional State have resulted in escalating tensions.” 

The Catholic Bishops caution against violence saying, “If brotherly people kill each other, Ethiopia will gain nothing. Instead, it is an act that will turn our whole country into a failure and not benefit anyone.”

“Alternatives to war are nothing but divisive among fraternal peoples,” the Church leaders say in their collective message.

They call on Ethiopians “not to take the conflict lightly” adding that “all should take it seriously and contribute to the cause of reconciliation, strengthening public unity, and ensuring peace and security, recognizing that it is not just for governments.” 

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“The priority of our country is to uphold the rule of law," the Prelates emphasize.

They further say, "The government has a responsibility to ensure that all measures are taken to ensure the rule of law do not endanger the lives of citizens and do not put the country in jeopardy."

They also call on "all media professionals, both at home and abroad, to report carefully on ethical, non-violent, and non-provocative issues."

In the Cardinal Barhenayeus-signed statement, the Bishops express concern about the rise in terrorist attacks on civilians in the Horn of Africa country due to suppressed tensions between the country's numerous ethnic groups.

On September 26, armed attackers killed at least 15 people in a pre-dawn assault in Benishangul-Gumuz region’s Metekel Zone, western Ethiopia, Al Jazeera News reported.

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At least two instances of violence in early September in the same region bordering Sudan resulted in the killing of civilians and forced at least 300 people from their homes.

In their November 4 statement, the Bishops in Ethiopia condemn the upsurge in attacks on civilians saying, “The Ethiopian Catholic Church strongly condemns the ongoing displacement and killing of innocent people in various parts of the country.”

“The horrific massacre of our innocent brothers and sisters has left our church deeply saddened,” the Church leaders lament and continue, “Since God is the Creator and Loving Father of all, he is deeply saddened by such injustices.”

They further say, “Human life is sacred and should never be tormented, persecuted, or killed. Human blood should never be shed for any reason or purpose.”

The Bishops express their “deepest condolences to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in various parts of the country and wishes God to provide comfort to their families."

The Bishops “urge all Catholics in Ethiopia and around the world to take a closer look at the current situation in our country and pray for peace and reconciliation, and to join hands with all other religions in accordance with the call of the Ethiopian Council of Religious Institutions.”