By Vatican News staff writer
The Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia have appealed for peaceful dialogue, as tensions in the north threaten to drag the country into a civil war.
"We urge parties to resolve their differences amicably, in a spirit of respect, understanding", the bishops said in a statement. They hope and pray "for the people to live together in respect, concertation, and dialogue, and to work together for the prosperity of their common country".
A series of developments this week between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the powerful Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in the north have led to the escalation of tension in the country.
The Ethiopian government on Wednesday cut off communications in the heavily armed northern Tigray region and ordered troops to respond to an alleged deadly attack by Tigray’s forces on a military base there. Both sides have accused each other of initiating the fighting.
Ethiopia’s army said on Thursday it was deploying troops from around the country to Tigray, and the Tigray leader announced they “are ready to be martyrs”. Casualties have been reported on both sides. On Friday, the upper house of parliament voted for a transitional government in the region to replace Tigray's leadership.
Calls for peace
"The stability of Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region. I call for an immediate de-escalation of tensions and a peaceful resolution to the dispute", United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a tweet on Friday.
"Despite the efforts of religious leaders, elders and other interested parties to defuse the ongoing conflict between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray region, tensions have escalated", the Ethiopian bishops lamented. They warned that "if brothers kill themselves, Ethiopia will gain nothing” and it will lead the country to bankruptcy, benefitting no one. Urging “Ethiopians not to take the conflict lightly" they invited everyone to “contribute to the cause of reconciliation, strengthen national unity and guarantee peace and security”.
Fear of spread of unrest
The impending conflict could spread to other parts of Ethiopia, where some regions have been calling for more autonomy, and deadly ethnic violence has led the federal government to restore measures that include arresting critics.
The Ethiopian Catholic Church also condemned the ongoing displacement and killing of innocent people in various parts of the country. "The horrific massacre of our innocent brothers and sisters has left our Church deeply saddened", the bishops said. They urged "all Catholics in Ethiopia and around the world to take a closer look at the current situation in our country and pray for peace and reconciliation".