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The Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia The Bishops' Conference of Ethiopia 

Ethiopian Bishops renew call for peace

Ethiopian bishops have focused their recent Plenary Assembly on the humanitarian crisis caused by the 13-month war in the country, calling on the faithful to pray for and foster peace. They have also pledged to raise US$2 million to support people in the crisis.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) has announced it will raise US$2 millions, with the aid of Church partners, local Catholic Institutions and Catholic faithful, to support people enduring the consequences of the ongoing war and other crises in the country. The announcement was made in the final message of its  Plenary Assembly held before the Christmas festivities at Modjo Consolata Fathers pastoral center. The meeting was focused on the  the conflict which has recently entered its second year and on the Church's response to the humanitarian crisis. Bishops also discussed the synodal process.

War erupted on November 4, 2020, after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) following an alleged attack against federal military bases in the northern region. Ahmed promised a swift victory, but the fighting has escalated into a widespread  conflict involving ethnic-based militias as well as Eritrean armed forces, with reports of grave human rights violations on both sides.

"Heart-breaking" atrocities 

In their message, the Ethiopian bishops recall that from the outset of the war they have been issuing statements pleading with all actors to understand its  consequences and urging parties to choose dialogue instead. “War always brings devastation, loss of life, loss of property, breaking up of communities, displacement and other related: human crisis. It brings emotional, social, economic crisis to the society and this is what is happening in Ethiopia”, they say. “Many have lost their lives, many are displaced, many have lost their properties, many are imprisoned, many girls and women are raped, social harmony which has existed between people have been seriously affected. Many people live in fear and uncertainty,” the bishops add,  describing the atrocities as “heart-breaking” and sources of “great sorrow and sadness”.

Praying for peace

The message goes on to say  that bishops “have been intensely praying for peace in the  country” ,  highlighting the importance of prayer in these difficult times. “Prayer is definitely one of the most powerful instruments for bringing about change”, as “it opens up our hearts to God and to one another; it instills hope; it helps us to avoid hate speech” and “helps us to see a brother/a sister in the person”, they explain.

“We certainly need prayer at the moment: prayer for our country, prayer for those who take decisions that matters the lives of the citizens of this country, prayer for those who are suffering hunger, thirst, illness, rejection, lack of basic necessities, for those who are displaced and imprisoned,” CBCE members write.

Fostering peace through dialogue

Ethiopian bishops further call on the faithful to actively foster peace through dialogue in their country. “As Christians, as Catholics, each and every one of us should be able to stand up and declare unreservedly and unconditionally, like the Psalmist, ‘I am for peace’. The way of peace reconciles conflicts and regenerates the beauty of fraternity, which heals all wounds,” they say. “A culture of dialogue should be encouraged within the society and the Church will play her role in an eventual inclusive national dialogue in Ethiopia”, bishops add.

Church suffers with people who suffer

The message also highlights the Catholic Church’s contribution to address the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia saying that the Church will "continue to scale up her efforts as her mission calls her to suffer with people who suffer, share the pains and the anxieties of humanity”. As part of this effort the CBCE announces it will raise Eth. Birr 100,000,000 (US$2 million) to support people in the crisis.

Hope

Ethiopian bishops finally call for hope: “Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today's world are thirsting. It is our responsibility as Ethiopians to heal the wounds of one another”. “May God protect Ethiopia and bless the people with grace and peace!”, the message concludes.

Possible ceasefire

On December 20 TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael announced to the UN he had ordered its forces to pull out from the Amhara and Afar regions and to withdraw to the borders of Tigray, suggesting terms of a potential ceasefire. The central government has subsequently regained full control of the two federal states and on December 24 announced that it had ordered its troops not to advance further in Tigray while awaiting further developments. Only sporadic clashes have been reported since, which analysts say could be sign of the willingness of both parties to start negotiations.

 

28 December 2021, 12:30