NAIROBI, Kenya — Catholic bishops in Ethiopia reiterated their call for peace and dialogue in the Horn of Africa country, as conflict in the northern region of Tigray threatens to trigger a famine.
The bishops said they had never been silent about the war. They said the church was delivering humanitarian aid in all conflict areas and followed all the professional and legal reports on the alleged human rights abuses linked to the conflict.
“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia renews its appeal to all parties involved in the conflict in our country to drop their guns and start a genuine dialogue for the interest of the people,” said the March 8 bishops’ statement. “The bishops also assure their prayers, their commitment to helping in all possible ways, together with all the stakeholders, to see peace is attained and reconciliation is reached.”
In November, Catholic Bishop Tesfasellasie Medhin of Adigrat asked the Ethiopian Catholic church to end its silence about atrocities in Tigray and act as mother and shepherd of all peoples. In January, a group calling itself Tigray Diaspora Inter-Religious Council said it feared that some of the country’s religious leaders and institutions were increasing divisions and ethnic hatred, instead of calling for truth and reconciliation.
The war started in November 2020, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, a Nobel Peace laureate, ordered a military strike against rebels over allegations that the region’s rulers had attacked a national army base.
The U.N. Refugee agency says each day, at least 3,000 people cross from Tigray into eastern Sudan. Humanitarian agencies warn that 900,000 people in the region are on the verge of starvation.
The bishops reminded people that they had joined with other groups to help prevent the outbreak of the war, but the attempts were unsuccessful and the unacceptable war between brothers and sisters broke out.
“Since the day the war broke out, the Catholic Church in Ethiopia did not keep silent and makes continuous statements denouncing the war, loss of lives, displacement, loss of property and the all the consequences,” said the bishops.
They said they had mobilized resources from local and international partners to provide humanitarian food aid and other items in Tigray and surrounding regions.