Disarmament Urged in Ivory Coast

Pope Hoping for More Dialogue in War-torn Nation

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to all sides involved in Ivory Coast’s 15-month-old civil war to lay down their weapons.

The Pope made that plea Saturday when he received in audience the west African country’s new ambassador to the Holy See.

“May the dialogue of weapons make room for the weapons of dialogue,” the Pontiff said in the address he delivered to career diplomat Kouame Benjamin Konan.

Ivory Coast was plunged into civil war in September 2002. The country is struggling for political and institutional stability, despite last year’s Paris agreement, which lead to the establishment of a government of national unity.

“I profoundly desire that the process of national reconciliation continue and be intensified,” the Pope said. “The will of the diverse sides involved in the conflict to bring disarmament to an end is an important stage in the path to peace.”

John Paul II, who has visited Ivory Coast three times, said that peace “manifests the noble aspiration to say yes to reconciliation and no to violence so that the various components of the nation can advance together, on the paths of concord and national unity.”

“I do not doubt that disarmament will affect all the weapons held by the population, thus contributing to the country’s internal stability,” he added.

Lastly, the Holy Father appealed to “religious leaders and to members of all the communities to commit themselves with all their energies to this essential task for stability, for development, and for the nation’s radiance.”

“Mutual trust, which should always inspire and impregnate the social, political and economic life of a country at all levels, is rooted in the promotion of universal moral values, such as respect for human rights and the sense of the dignity of each person,” he explained.

About 30% of Ivory Coast’s 16.9 million inhabitants are Christians; 40% are Muslims and 17% are animists.

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