Church leaders call for end to Congo crisis

|PIC1|Church leaders have issued a joint statement calling for an end to the crisis in Congo, where fighting between government troops and rebel forces has displaced a quarter of a million people.

The statement was issued on Wednesday by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, The Salvation Army’s Commissioner Betty Matear, and the head of the Armenian Church, Bishop Nathan Hovhanissian.

In it, they call for an “immediate strengthening” of peacekeeping forces to protect civilians and allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid to the conflict-torn eastern region of the country.

They also “pray for a lasting political solution to this crisis, which addresses the persistent and underlying issues of justice, human rights, the integration of rebel forces into the national army and the management natural resources”.

The leaders echoed the concerns of aid agencies that are warning of an impending humanitarian disaster in the region, where the people have come under additional attacks from rebels belonging to the brutal Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. The World Food Programme said on Wednesday that it would extend its humanitarian operations to meet the needs of an estimated 70,000 people across the region.

The Church leaders said that the men, women and children affected “cannot wait any longer for the international community to act”.

“We therefore echo the recommendations by the UN Special Representative that the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, be strengthened in a matter of weeks not months.”

The Church leaders also expressed their support for UN envoy, the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is trying to broker a peace deal between the warring factions.

They went on to recognise the contribution of churches that are working on the ground to bring spiritual and practical relief to the communities affected by the violence, and urged Christians in the UK to keep praying for fellow believers in Congo.

“We recognise the contribution of church leaders in the region, who are trying to think, pray and act together to address the complex regional dimensions of the crisis, and the role of churches in UK, in helping to bring this issue to the attention of Christians and the wider public in Britain,” they said.

“We strongly urge you to keep praying and advocating for your brothers and sisters in Eastern DRC.”