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Ongoing War “saddens our hearts”, Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia Say, Call for Ceasefire

Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia/ Credit: Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat /Facebook.

The ongoing violence in Ethiopia’s Northern region that is reportedly spreading to other regions of the Horn of Africa nation is a cause for concern for Catholic Bishops in the country who are calling for an end to the violence.

Attacks that were mainly in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are, according to The Guardian, spreading to other regions, officials in Afar region reporting that three districts have been seized by the Tigrayan forces in their fight against Ethiopian military.

“It saddens our hearts hearing about war while we all would like to hear about peace and reconciliation,” members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) say in their collective statement shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, July 21.

They add in reference to the violent conflict that is spreading beyond the Tigray region, “As Pastors, we cannot but feel the anguish and pain that the people are going through.”

Violence erupted in the Tigray region on 4 November 2020 when forces from the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base.

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Since then, thousands have been reported dead and more than five million people in need of urgent humanitarian aid as a result of the violence that is spreading to the neighboring Afar, a regional state in Northeastern Ethiopia that is inhabited by the Afar people.

The latest attacks have resulted in the displacement of over 54,000 people from their homes, an official in Afar region, has been quoted as saying.

According to The Guardian, “The leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Debretsion Gebremichael, said on Thursday that Tigrayan forces were in Afar and that they planned to target forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, which has been fighting on behalf of the government.”

In their collective statement, Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia express their closeness with those whose lives have been affected by the eight-month violent conflict.

“For some it is already too late, and we pray that the sacrifice of their lives may not be in vain,” they say.

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In the statement issued at the end of their 13-16 ordinary assembly, CBCE members express solidarity with the Local Ordinary of the Eparchy of Adigrat, the episcopal see that covers the Tigray region, who has not been able to take part in the Bishops’ assembly since last year in person amid violence.  

“We have made a special prayer for His Excellency Abune Tesfasilassie Medhin, Eparch of Adigrat, who was not able to join the assembly for the last one year due to the war in Tigray and suffering continuously together with his people, and for the clergy, religious men and women and all Catholic faithful who have been passing through the war and the attached humanitarian crisis,” CBCE members say.

They “kindly urge” the parties in conflict to halt the violence and strive toward peaceful co-existence saying, “War only destroys lives and properties and nothing more and the choice to be made should not be a war but peace and reconciliation.”

Violence, the Bishops say, “is never a remedy for wrongs or a solution to a crisis.”

“It is never too late to stop the violence, to acknowledge that the only way forward, for the good of the people, is peace and reconciliation, to satisfy the demands of truth and justice, to ask for and grant forgiveness, to do what is necessary to restore mutual trust, to recognize others as our brothers and sisters, no matter who they are and how deep our disagreements are, and to settle any differences through dialogue and negotiation,” they say.

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The Catholic Bishops in Africa’s second most populous nation also encourage the people of God in the Horn of Africa country to put their hope in Jesus Christ saying, “It is the only way that we can heal together as a country, as a society, and as a Church.”

They further urge Ethiopians to embrace one another regardless of their differences as “there are no ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, no ‘them’ and ‘us’; we are all brothers and sisters.” 

“Living in peace and social harmony may seem like a dream but it is attainable if we stretch out our hands to God, the Father of all, in prayer and allow Him to mold our hearts and minds to think thoughts of peace and fraternity and act accordingly,” CBCE members say.

It is their desire, the Bishop further say, to see a nation where “all Ethiopians embrace each other as brothers and sisters.”  

“May The Almighty God who created all of us as brothers and sisters fill our hearts with wisdom to choose brotherhood and sisterhood than hatred and revenge and make us an instrument of peace,” Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia implore.

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