By Vatican News staff writer
Christians all over the world are invited to pray for peace in troubled regions this month, particularly in Ethiopia where the escalating conflict in the Tigray region has lasted for several weeks.
This was the appeal of Bishop Domenico Sorrentino of the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino in Italy, in a statement released on Thursday.
Bishop Sorrentino also announced the resumption of the monthly prayers for peace in Assisi inspired by the historical interreligious meeting for peace held in Assisi on 27 October 1986.
On that occasion, Pope Saint John Paul II coined the expression “Spirit of Assisi” expressing his desire to work with religious leaders of different faiths for peace in the world. The town of Assisi in central Italy is birthplace of St Francis and is known as "The city of peace". It has since become a symbolic location in the Church’s continuous invitations for peace and universal kinship.
Prayers for Ethiopia
Bishop Sorrentino called for prayers and action from different religions for peace to be restored in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
He explained that the population in the region “lives in a situation of great instability between reprisals of armed groups and the intervention of the national army.” This conflict, the Bishop warned, “risks spreading to the entire region of the Horn of Africa” as some other nations who take advantage of confusion can “fan the flames of the conflict, making it even more destructive.”
The Bishop also highlighted the nation’s already struggling economic system whose negative effects are further exacerbated by the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If peace is not only the absence of war, we will also pray that the spread of the pandemic ends as soon as possible,” said Bishop Sorrentino.
Ethiopia’s current conflict was sparked in August after the government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rescheduled national elections till next year citing the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as its reason. Tigrayan leaders, alleging the postponement was the Premier’s strategy to prolong his stay in office, organized their own elections in September.
The Ethiopian national government, in retaliation, placed sanctions on the Tigray state and set off a series of recriminations between the federal government and the Tigray regional government. Earlier this month the Prime Minister announced an offensive on Tigray state. He also set a 72-hour ultimatum on Sunday for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to lay down its arms or face assault on Mekelle, the Tigray regional capital city.
Hundreds are believed to have been killed in the conflict and several hundred thousand Ethiopians have fled for their lives into neighboring Sudan.
Spirit of Assisi
Just over thirty-four years ago, on 27 October 1986, spiritual leaders from different religions came together with Pope saint John Paul II in Assisi, Italy to pray. The Pope gathered the leaders on the occasion of a “World Day of Prayer for Peace” to promote interreligious dialogue, ecumenism and peace.
On 20 October, the 34th international meeting in the “Spirit of Assisi” was held in Rome.