THE Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of Congo, Dr Fidèle Dirokpa, has called for this Sunday to be observed as a day of prayer for peace in the war-torn country, amid reports of continued clashes between rebel forces and government troops this week.
Government forces fought near the city of Goma with Tutsi rebels, who are under the leadership of General Laurent Nkunda, despite a ceasefire having been called.
Aid agencies estimate that about 250,000 people have been forced from their homes as a result of the escalation of violence in the past few weeks. They have warned of a humanitarian disaster. A letter from 44 community groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called for European troops to intervene, and accused the UN peacekeepers of being ineffective and powerless.
Dr Dirokpa’s call for a day of prayer was echoed by the Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, the Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, who said on Tuesday that many of “our Anglican sisters and brothers . . . have been deeply affected, and are in the forefront of relief efforts and peacekeeping”. He described the situation as “underreported”.
“In addition to the crisis in the Goma region, there are two areas of rebel activity in Congo which have not hit the news: the Dungu area in the north, where the Lord’s Resistance Army has attacked villages and abducted adults and children . . . [and] close to Bunia, where a new militia group emerged in late September, and displaced many people from their homes.”
The Congolese Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a plea to the Vatican, talking of the “silent genocide” taking place. It also criticised the lack of action by the UN peacekeepers.
“The great massacres of the population, the planned extermination of the youth, the systematic robberies used as a weapon of war . . . a cruelty and exceptional violence is once again being unleashed upon the local people, who only ask that they can live in a decent manner in their homeland. Who is willing to take an interest in this situation?”