ETHIOPIA – The Church “suffers and shares the anxieties and pains of humanity”

“Ever since we began to see the bitter warning signs of a war, we have expressed in every way through declarations and prayers, the invitation to all actors to consider the path of dialogue rather than that of arms.

War brings devastation, destroys lives, destroys property, forces people to leave their homes, and leaves a deep scar on the unity between individuals for centuries. It opens a profound social, moral, psychological, economic crisis: and this is exactly what is happening in Ethiopia. Many have died, many have been displaced, many have been imprisoned. Many of our sisters have been raped, our social harmony, which has lasted for centuries, has been severely tested. Many people live in fear and uncertainty. All this hurts us deeply”. Thus begins the heartfelt message issued at the conclusion of the 52nd plenary assembly of the Bishops of the Catholic Church of Ethiopia, held at the Monastery of the Consolata Fathers in Mojo, between December,13 and 16. The letter, sent to Fides, is addressed to “all Catholic clergy, religious men and women, lay believers and people of good will” and comes at the end of a year marked by the military escalation that saw the regular army fight against the rebels of the TPLF (People’s Front for the Liberation of Tigray). Since the beginning of November 2020 to today, after the referendum held in Tigray without the authorization of Addis Ababa, there have been clashes and massacres of civilian victims that have led the entire country into the abyss of civil war.

“The sound of church bells – the Bishops affirm – should be the sound of hope, love, peace, reconciliation and fraternity. Let us have firm faith in God and trust that this darkness will pass. Our country is in great need of prayer at this time. We believe that prayer is a powerful tool that makes a difference, produces changes in the heart and opens it to God and to our brothers and sisters. Prayer helps us to remove evil from our hearts, to prevent our hearts from being filled with bitterness, to prevent hate speech from coming out of our mouths and to see reality from a different perspective. Therefore let us pray tirelessly for all our leaders who make decisions about our country, about our people for the prisoners, the dead, the displaced, the sad, the hungry, the thirsty, the worried, the confused, the oppressed. It is with this fervor that we have continued to pray and have asked our people to do so with fervor”. The believer, the faithful Christian, is at the same time a man of peace, it is noted.

The Bishops call upon all the people who believe in God to become a concrete instrument of peace and reconciliation and to commit themselves to the promotion of a national and inclusive dialogue in practice. The Message continues: “Psalm 120 says ‘I am for peace, but when I speak of it, they want war’. The identification of the psalmist with being a believer and, therefore, a man of peace, is total. Peace is what defines it, it is an active and assertive presence of peace in the world. And this is what we are called to be individually as Christians, as pastors, as religious leaders and as consecrated persons. The path to peace heals and restores a fabric of fraternity. We must help each other to believe in the patient form of dialogue.

The Church will play a crucial role in fostering national dialogue”. The Bishops also refer to the synodal path of the Ethiopian Church in view of the Synod, and confirm the commitment of the Church in supporting the population in great distress due to the war. “The Ethiopian Catholic Church – they conclude – has played a primary role in providing humanitarian aid. Its mission is to suffer with those who suffer and share the anxieties and pains of humanity. The Church, thanks to the support of partners, local churches and simple faithful, will make available an amount of 100 million birr (about 2 million euros ) to come to the rescue of the population that suffers from war and other natural disasters. As His Holiness Pope Francis said in his recent apostolic visit to Greece and Cyprus, suffering helps us to understand that we are all human beings and brings us unity and helps us build a future full of hope and peace”. (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/12/2021)