As the people of Ethiopia’s Tigray region continue to suffer at the heart of a violent conflict, with hundreds dead and thousands displaced, the situation threatens to escalate to a more serious refugee emergency and a region-wide crisis.

Bishop Paul Swarbrick, who holds the Africa brief at the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has offered prayers for all affected by the conflict in the East African country:

“Advent is a time of hope, a precious need in our lives as individuals and as a society. The tragic events unfolding in Tigray and the Horn of Africa appear to defy all hope of a peaceful and swift solution. Our prayers and hearts go out to all victims of this conflict.

“Pope Francis has said, ‘Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics, and of humanity. It is a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.’ This applies fully to the current situation engulfing Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and it appears to be worsening.

“And yet, we must have hope that a solution will come. We offer our prayers for all victims, those directly caught up in the violence, killed, injured, homeless, separated from loved ones, and those drawn in less directly.

“We pray for the Local Church as well as for all who are providing humanitarian support. We pray for soldiers, those firing the weapons, those dropping the bombs. We pray for political leaders and all who are tempted to look for revenge. Lord, in these days of Advent, lift us with the precious gift of hope found only in You.”

Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, has also reminded the faithful of the importance of helping our brothers and sisters at this time when the country is “under tension”. At the beginning of November, the Catholic bishops of Ethiopia called for an end to the violence and the start of a peaceful dialogue in the Tigray region.

Pope Francis recently called on the conflicting parties to stop the fighting. “The Holy Father is following the news from Ethiopia, where a military clash has been taking place for several weeks now, affecting the Tigray Region and the surrounding areas. Because of the violence, hundreds of civilians have died and tens of thousands of people are forced to flee their homes towards Sudan”, said the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Matteo Bruni.