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Consolata Missionaries in Africa Express Solidarity with Church in Ethiopia amid Crisis

The Ethiopian flag.

Members of the Consolata Missionaries ministering in Africa have expressed their solidarity with the people of God in Ethiopia amid the ongoing crisis in the Horn of Africa nation’s Tigray region.

In a statement issued at the end of their ordinary meeting of the Continental Council of Africa earlier this week, the Consolata Missionaries in Africa call on all parties in the conflict to collaborate with regional and international bodies in pursuit of a lasting solution to the conflict.

Addressed to the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE), the missionaries express their solidarity with “the entire church and the people of Ethiopia who find themselves in this hard situation.”

“We are in solidarity with all of you Bishops, Clergy, Religious men and women and all your communities and we assure you of our prayers,” the members of the Consolata missionaries say in their solidarity statement circulated Friday, December 18.

In the statement dated December 15, the missionaries who say they are “following closely the current wave of violence and unrest” in the region bemoan the fact that “a lot of property has been destroyed, many lives lost and thousands have been forced to flee their land to seek for security thus exposing them to more risks.”

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The members of the 119-year-old Religious Order make reference to and reiterate the November 4 appeal by CBCE members to all those involved in the Tigray conflict “to immediately stop the armed conflict and start peaceful dialogue for the benefit of the people and resolve their differences in the spirit of understanding, mutual respect and trust.”

Making reference to CBCE members, the missionaries say, “We laud your initiatives for dialogue and we join your appeal to the government of Ethiopia and all the concerned parties to collaborate with the African Union and the international community to intervene decisively and find a lasting solution to the causes of the conflict and tensions in order to attain peace and stability.”

The landlocked Horn of Africa nation has been experiencing clashes since November 4 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.

The military offensive was in response to the alleged takeover of Ethiopia’s largest military base located in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, by forces loyal to the region’s government.

The intervention was the culmination of escalating tensions between the authorities of the two regions that started in September when the ruling party in Tigray, the TPLF organized elections in the region, against the advice of the federal government, which had suspended the polls scheduled for August citing COVID-19 restrictions.

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The six-week conflict has “left hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” the leadership of the UN has reported adding, “More than 50,000 people, almost half of them children, have fled across the border into Sudan.”

On Thursday, December 17, UN leadership announced the release of US$36.6 million to help civilians caught up in the conflict “to secure water, sanitation and lifesaving medical supplies.”

Amid the ongoing crisis, the Consolata Missionaries in Africa echo the message St. John Paul II addressed to CBCE members during their 1997 Ad Limina visit to the Vatican in which the Pontiff reminded them of the Church’s role in the society.

“Indeed, the Church has a special role to play and can lend support to the process of building a society in which all citizens, independent of their ethnic, cultural and religious affiliation, can feel at home and be justly treated,” the members of the Consolata missionaries in Africa quote St. John Paul II’s 1997 message in their two page statement circulated December 18.

In the statement signed by eight Provincial Superiors of various regions in Africa as well as the General Councilor of the continent, the members of the Blessed Joseph Allamano-founded missionary congregation are the latest leaders to express their solidarity with the Church in Ethiopia following the crisis.

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Security experts have cautioned that the crisis could easily escalate into a civil war that could rope in neighboring countries, including Eritrea and Sudan.

On November 8, Pope Francis called for a rejection to the temptation of armed conflict and invited everyone “to prayer and to fraternal respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful end to the disagreements.”

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) echoed the Holy Father’s call and discouraged parties in the conflict “from use of military power, as it will only transform the conflict into civil war, making the beautiful country of Ethiopia to become a more destabilized country.”

“Instead, we appeal for peaceful dialogue,” the leadership of AMECEA said in a November 13 solidarity message.

In their November 26 message, officials of Pax Christi International, a global Catholic peace movement, expressed “great” concerns about the Tigray crisis, which they said “is causing immense violence, internally displacement of persons and thousands of refugees.”

“We strongly believe that military actions will not lead to a just resolution of the conflict and can only lead to further escalation of violence, aggravating the suffering of the population,” Pax Christi International officials said.

They added, “We call upon all parties to commit decidedly and effectively to protect and assist civilians, especially the most vulnerable.”