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Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda Bishops Reaffirm Commitment “to be witnesses, artisans of peace”

Members of the Standing Committee of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC)

The Bishops at the helm of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) that brings together heads of dioceses in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda have, in their Ordinary session, reaffirmed their commitment to working for peace in their region faced with insecurity and political instability.

“Following Christ, the Prince of Peace, we the Bishops consider ourselves to be the first witnesses and artisans of peace. We thus renew the commitment made in 2013 to work with other religious denominations to establish lasting peace in the sub-region through the witness of life, actions and words,” reads in part the communique of the members of ACEAC’s Standing Committee at end of their ordinary session held at the Amani Spiritual Centre in Bukavu, DRC, availed to ACI Africa.

The collective statement indicates that the Bishops intent “to publish, in the coming months, their vision of peace and the related pastoral programme for the conversion of hearts and social cohesion in the sub-region.”

The Prelates who concluded their four-day meeting Saturday, January 18 expressed concern over the social welfare of the population in their respective countries saying, “The social situation remains worrying, first of all in view of the persistent insecurity in certain areas, particularly on the borders of our three countries.”

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi for neighboring countries since April 2015, and that this is due to the violence and unrest which erupted in the country after an announcement by the President of Burundi that he would seek a third term in office, refworld has reported.

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DRC has faced a number of crises in recent times including an Ebola outbreak in the east and violence in various parts of the vast Central African country, particularly in the Ituri, Kasai, and Kivu regions, Global Conflict Tracker has reported.

More than one hundred armed groups, from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda are believed to operate in the Eastern region of DRC despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers.

Furthermore, the Bishops of ACEAC have deplored “the deterioration of the climate of trust between political leaders in the sub-region, at the risk of aggravating the threat of armed clashes to the detriment of our populations.”

“We appeal to the conscience of those in power to keep at heart and in mind the duty to secure the populations and to work for the prosperity of the peoples who must fully enjoy their rights as free creatures created in the image of God,” the Prelates stated in their message.

ACEAC Prelates also expressed concern over the social welfare of the Population saying, “here and there the purchasing power of the population has fallen further, forcing many families to live below the poverty line.”

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“And as misfortune never comes alone, the Ebola virus disease and the torrential rains of the last few months have caused significant material damage with several people dead, and left several people in the street,” Thy lamented.

Following these unfortunate situations, the bishops have commended the efforts of Caritas and the Justice and Peace commission in bringing aid to the suffering populations.

 “We appreciate the dynamism of the Caritas and Justice and Peace Commissions, which the meagre resources have not prevented from remaining close to the vulnerable people.”

They have called on the Christian communities to “continue to show solidarity with all these victims.”

The members of the Standing Committee of ACEAC also discussed the Motu Proprio of Pope Francis titled "Vos estis lux mundi" (You are the light of the world).

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The Motu proprio, dated May 7, 2019, deals with the protection of minors and vulnerable persons" and establishes guidelines for reporting cases of sexual abuse.

The Bishops recommend to the national Bishops’ Conferences the organization of training sessions for clergy and the deepening of procedures for the erection of structures for reporting cases of abuse.