ETHIOPIA – Religious leaders call for peace after recent violence
After witnessing the violence which occurred as a result of on-going protests, religious leaders in Ethiopia have joined together to plead for peace. A joint statement issued by the Inter-religious Council of Ethiopia said:
“We the religious leaders of Ethiopia firmly believe that peace is a priceless grace from God. It is possible to worship with a calm spirit only when there is sustainable peace …. We Ethiopians have lived together through the ages sharing our joys and griefs, problems and challenges; and we are still practicing the same values.”
The Catholic Church in Ethiopia is represented on the Inter-religious Council, which called on people of different religions to accept each other with mutual respect, forgiveness and mercy and unite for peace. They urged Ethiopians to “look at your fellow Ethiopians as brothers and sisters, to repent of hatred and chaos and present all your concerns peacefully.”
“We have also called on the faithful on different occasions to observe fasting and prayer for peace and calm,” they said. “Nevertheless, the peace of our country has declined from time to time.” They also appealed to local and international mass media and social media to avoid transmitting “messages that promote hatred, conflict and violence.”
The religious leaders expressed their sorrow at the violence at the Irrecha thanksgiving celebration in Bishoftu Town, about 30 miles southeast of Addis Ababa. Over 50 people were killed and many severely injured when police tried to disrupt an anti-government protest taking place amid the festival on 2 Oct.
The Inter-religious Council stressed the sanctity of human life and the need for all parties to respect the right to life. They also called for compensation for the families of those who had lost their lives and for those whose property was damaged.
Since November 2015, protests in the Oromia region calling for wider political freedom and the release of detained opposition figures and journalists have sometime resulted in violence. The government is accused of suppressing dissent and blocking access to the internet.
The religious leaders said they had repeatedly urged Ethiopia’s prime minister and government officials to listen and respond to the people’s concerns.They stressed it was the government’s responsibility to calm conflict. They also recommended the establishment of a “peace taskforce” with religious leaders, elders, academics and business people from different parts of the country to advance national understanding, reconciliation and psychological relief.