Episcopal Initiatives To End Wars In Central Africa

«Our People Are Tired of These Wars,» Bishops Say

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KIGALI, MAY 21, 2002 (Zenit.org).-The Bishops of the bloodstained African Great Lakes region made an appeal today, stating «our people are tired of all these wars and ardently wish for peace.»

The Bishops´ appeal came at the conclusion of a meeting of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa, composed of the Bishops of Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The three countries are facing tragic inter-ethnic violence, which reached its fiercest point in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

During the extraordinary meeting, held in Kigali (Rwanda), which followed earlier meetings held this year in Kinshasa and Bujumbura, the Bishops reflected on a message sent by John Paul II, in which he called on all men of the Church to make an examination of conscience in face of the situation.

The final document asserts that the causes of the serious situation are «sins that mark human nature,» such as «ethnocentrism, egoism of some leaders, and the loss of the moral sense in a great number of people.»

However, there are still signs of hope, such as the Lusaka and Arusha peace agreements, and the negotiations of the inter-Congolese dialogue.

«The fact that people continue to live together and cooperate with one another, despite the forces of violence and division, constitutes a light of hope,» the Bishops stressed.

These significant steps must be consolidated through the «common construction of a State of law» in the Great Lakes region, and the «promotion of a culture of peace.»

At the end of the summit, the Bishops of Central Africa also wrote a «Manifesto for Peace,» highlighting the violations that damage peoples´ fundamental rights: from the traffic in arms to bad government, and from hatred with ethnic overtones to the regularity of conflicts.

«We have decided to consecrate the first Sunday of Advent every year to prayer and reflection on forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace,» the «Manifesto for Peace» states, emphasizing the creation of a «specific service for reconciliation and the resolution of conflicts» at the heart of ecclesial communities.

Lastly, the document announces the publication of a pastoral exhortation on the «Church as the Family of God in Central Africa,» projected for 2004. It will be dedicated to the role of the Church in the integral and peaceful development of the Great Lakes region.

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