KAMPALA, Uganda, JUNE 1, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace met with citizens of this country’s war-torn north to express John Paul II’s solidarity.
“The flames of a bush cannot be extinguished with fire,” Cardinal Renato Martino told a crowd gathered today in the cathedral of Gulu. The papal envoy was using an African proverb to emphasize that violence is not overcome with arms but with the Gospel.
The cardinal described Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu, who is president the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, as a “hero.” The ARLPI is working to end the more than 15 years of war in the region.
The pontifical council president also visited the refugee camp of Pagak, where a few weeks ago more than 30 people were killed, to manifest the Holy See’s solidarity.
Father Giulio Albanese, director of the Missionary News Service Agency, who is traveling with the papal envoy, said: “From the humanitarian point of view, the situation is truly desperate. Virtually 80% of the population is displaced. The missions have become real fortresses of society.”
On Wednesday, Cardinal Martino plans to visit Kitgum, whose Catholic mission was attacked Monday by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.
Father Albanese said that “the majority of these rebels are practically children who have been kidnapped in villages and forced to fight.”
Since 1994, about 25,000 children have been kidnapped in the north by rebels, the priest said.