Soldiers of the Ethiopian National Defense Forse (ENDF) walk along a road in Gashena, Ethiopia. Soldiers of the Ethiopian National Defense Forse (ENDF) walk along a road in Gashena, Ethiopia.   (AFP or licensors)

Ethiopian Cardinal: Amidst the devastation and destruction there is hope

Ethiopian Cardinal Souraphiel emphasises the need for peace, education, and vocational training to address Ethiopia's internal conflicts and humanitarian crises, without ever losing hope.

By Francesca Merlo

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Demerew Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, has always been involved in addressing the humanitarian crises that have risen in Ethiopia as a result of past and ongoing conflicts. In a recent interview with Fides News Agency, he stated that "there are various conflicts in Ethiopia, but we must never lose hope."

The many conflicts

Discussing the internal conflicts in the country, Cardinal Souraphiel spoke of the suffering caused to the population. He noted that the Tigray war has ended, with the signing of a peace treaty in Pretoria, but that even so, humanitarian needs are desperate. Likewise, humanitarian needs in Oromia are severe, affecting both the displaced and those who remain amidst the war. Similar situations are unfolding in the Amhara region, where recent conflicts between the federal government and the Fano militia have exacerbated the crisis.

Cardinal Souraphiel emphasised the Church’s efforts, through Caritas Internationalis, to provide aid to as many affected individuals as possible. He stated, "The Catholic Church is a small reality in Ethiopia, but it seeks to reach the largest number of displaced persons and those living in war zones to offer them aid."

Psychological and spiritual wounds

Addressing the psychological and spiritual "wounds" caused by the wars, Cardinal Souraphiel underscored the extremely vast and varied impact on the population, especially on women, children, the elderly, and those who have been forced to fight. "Every war leaves many people affected not only in the body but also in the soul and spirit," he noted.

The Church aims to offer assistance in social, psychological, and spiritual fields, with a particular focus on trauma care. The cardinal said special attention is given to children and their mothers, many of whom cannot attend school, and to women who have been victims of rape. He noted that in this regard, the Church is actively training religious personnel, seminarians, and catechists to provide support in this vital area, from the villages to the institutions.

The power of coming together

Highlighting the role of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, Cardinal Souraphiel pointed to the Catholic Church’s foundational role in the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia. "By working together in the humanitarian field, we can be more effective at the national level, where we have received recognition from the federal government," he said, explaining that the Council includes all major religious denominations, working collaboratively in reconciliation, healing war traumas, and humanitarian assistance.

Hope for the future

Cardinal Souraphiel also conveyed a message of hope for Ethiopia. He emphasised the country’s ancient Christian heritage and the long history of peaceful coexistence among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. He pointed out the divisive factors, such as ethnic federalism, and suggested that while federalism is beneficial, it should not be based on ethnicity or language.

From a geopolitical perspective, Ethiopia's significance is underscored by its population of 120 million, making it the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. "Seventy per cent of the population is young and loves their country, but due to poverty and conflicts, they are forced to migrate," he remarked.

Give young people what they need

In this regard, the cardinal stressed the importance of providing vocational training to young people. "We need to train young people in professions within their own country so that even if they have to go abroad, they are well paid and respected," he stated. 

Despite the challenges, the cardinal continued, Ethiopia is experiencing economic growth, with new manufacturing industries benefiting from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam's electricity. "We need peace, education, and investments to strengthen our industry", Cardinal Sourafiel concluded. 

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09 July 2024, 12:00