Aide: Reaction to Slaying of Poor Is Too Slow

Vatican Spokesman Focuses On Congo Conflict

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 17, 2008 ( Believers must arm themselves with love in order to counter evil and violence, and the world must lend support, says a Vatican spokesman about the refugees in North Kivu.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, dedicated his weekly remarks on Vatican Television’s «Octava Dies» to the «massacre of the poor» in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he said is taking place under the indifferent gaze of a good part of public opinion.

«The news that continues to reach us daily from North Kivu fills us with anguish,» said the Jesuit priest, recalling that on Nov. 9 the Pope denounced the «destruction, looting and violence of every type» suffered by the innocent civilians of this country.

The conflict has forced 250,000 people from their homes since its onset in August. The violence has restricted most refugees from access to the food and assistance offered by aid organizations, escalating the humanitarian crisis.

Congo situation

The crisis follows the eruption of violence between three groups: Tutsi militia of General Laurent Nkunda, the Rwandan Hutus who fled after the 1994 genocide, and the Congolese army.

Nkunda said that he initiated the rebel army to protect Tutsis from attacks by Hutus responsible for the Rwandan genocide. He declared his intention of overthrowing the Congolese government (which he says is supporting the Hutu militias) if it does not consent to a direct audience to address the issue of these attacks.

His critics say that in reality Nkunda’s aim is to take control of the region, along with its valuable mineral resources.

Sunday, Nkunda met with U.N. envoy and former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to discuss an end to the conflict. The general agreed to a ceasefire, to participate in peace talks in Nairobi, and to allow aid workers access to the refugees.

However, today as Congolese soldiers withdrew, Tutsi rebels followed in their wake, engaging in skirmishes and taking control of the region as it was vacated.

Confusing reason

According to a report issued at the beginning of the year in Kinshasa by the «International Rescue Committee,» the conflicts and humanitarian crises that the Congo has experienced since 1998 have cost 5.4 million lives, about 45,000 monthly.

«And as always in contemporary conflicts,» Father Lombardi said, «the majority of the victims are innocent civilians, caught in the crossfire of shameful interests, old hatreds and perverse passions.»

«Evil,» he added, «the great enemy that torments God’s creatures, confuses reason in an inextricable obscurity, leads contempt for life to the extreme and seems to reign uncontested. The reactions to this slaughter of the poor have been too slow and timid.»

The spokesman continued: «In the face of this [evil], believers must arm themselves with love at all costs, capable of resisting violence after the Lord’s example.

«But to rebuild peace it is necessary to return to a respect for the dignity of every human life, it is necessary to truly work harder for education and development, and to construct an international context that does not bring about conflicts but builds peace. If this does not happen, Africa will continue to die.»

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