Religious leaders look for peace in central Africa
Christian leaders have held a conference in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo on finding a regional solution to violence caused by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters.
Catholic Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani gathered together Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders from Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic and Sudan for a three day meeting to find a regional solution to violence caused by Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) fighters.
Catholic Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani gathered together Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders from Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic and Sudan for a three day meeting that began 2 February.
The LRA originate in Uganda, where they fought in a decades’ long civil war. LRA attacks have been reported in Sudan, Central African Republic, and Congo since 2008.
Villages have been burned and looted, massacres have taken place, and men, women and children kidnapped.
The religious leaders studied the phenomenon of the LRA, whose hallmark is the use abduction, including women and children, murder, torture and rape. They sought solutions on how to bring about peace in the troubled region.
“For five years, the Ugandan LRA has had a regional dimension. The solution to restore peace has to be regional,” said Archbishop Utembi Tapa. Meanwhile, a special day of remembrance and solidarity for victims of violence was held in Isiro Sunday, in one of the worst affected areas of LRA violence in Congo.
Residents of Isiro took part in a procession and held a Mass to remember and pray for victims of the conflict. The day was also an expression of solidarity with those who have been wounded, tortured, or kidnapped by rebels.
A Mass was presided by Msgr Dieudonné Abakuba, Episcopal Vicar of Isiro, and concelebrated by a dozen priests, in the presence of 800 people.
"We are gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist and to commemorate our fellow victims of the LRA, and to express our solidarity with all who suffer," said Msgr Abakuba in his homily. "We do not understand why this is happening today, but we can see these events with the light of faith. May the Lord open the hearts of the country's authorities to seek solutions,” he said.
“Many people have left their villages for fear of further attacks, the dead have been left without burial. Nobody likes to have to be an evacuee. We must help our brothers who bear the brunt of this suffering.
“We are gathered here to share with our brothers, the pain and assets we have. What we have received from the Lord is not only for us, but is for the good of all. May we open our hearts and hands to relieve the suffering of others. We are called to communion and understanding."
Fr Tatsima Baldwin, head of the diocesan Caritas, said: "Internally Displaced People (IDP) are people like us, who because of the LRA rebels have lost their children, spouses, parents, property, and home. We do not even know the fate of some who fled into the forest."
Source: Caritas Congo, Fides
Find out more about the work of Caritas with survivors of LRA violence