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Pope Concerned about Violence in Ethiopia, Prays for Victims of Explosion in Sierra Leone

Pope Francis gives his weekly Angelus message on Nov. 7, 2021 | Vatican Media

The escalating violence in Ethiopia is cause for concern for Pope Francis who has also expressed his spiritual solidarity with the victims of the explosion in the West African nation of Sierra Leone. 

Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been the scene of violence since 4 November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the State. 

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

On November 2, the government of Ethiopia reportedly announced a six-month State of Emergency in the country “to protect civilians from atrocities being committed by the terrorist TPLF group in several parts of the country” after the rebels threatened to march towards the capital, Addis Ababa. 

“I am following with a lot of concern the news coming from the region of the Horn of Africa, in particular in Ethiopia shaken by a conflict that has been enduring for more than a year which has caused numerous victims and a great humanitarian crisis,” Pope Francis said during his traditional Sunday appearance to the public in Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square on November 7. 

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He emphasized the need for dialogue in the place of the protracted violent conflict, and called for prayers for the people of God in Ethiopia who are “extremely hard pressed.”

The Pope has, in previous occasions, raised concerns about the violence in Ethiopia. 

In November last year, the Holy Father made an appeal to conflicting parties in Ethiopia to stop the violence and safeguard lives in November last year.

On June 13, the Pontiff offered his prayers for people of God in Ethiopia and said the humanitarian crisis in the country could expose poor families to famine.

Pope Francis also prayed for victims and families of the November 5 oil tanker explosion in Sierra Leone at the end of the Angelus Sunday, November 7

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He offered prayers for the people of God in the West African nation after an oil tanker collided with a lorry and exploded saying, “I secure my prayer after the explosion of a petroleum tanker in Sierra Leone,” the Holy Father said. 

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

The vehicles reportedly exploded when the tanker was entering a nearby filling station to discharge its fuel.

The Sierra Leone government has declared three days of national mourning following the incident that has reportedly led to the loss of at least 101 lives. 

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

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Most of the victims were motorcyclists and street vendors as well as those who tried to fetch the leaking fuel before it ignited.

In his message, Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio described the incident as “deeply disturbing” and called on the people of God in the West African nation to learn from the incident. 

Credit: Fr. Peter Konteh

“As we mourn our loss together, let us be resolute and we will come out of this stronger than ever and ensure that this never happens again,” President Bio said.