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Archbishop's response to the catastrophe in Congo

Wednesday 3rd December 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Commissioner Betty Matear of the Salvation Army and Bishop Nathan Hovhanissian of the Armenian Church, have released a statement in response to the humanitarian catastrophe in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The statement calls for an end to the crisis and for an immediate strengthening of peacekeeping forces in the region to protect civilians and provide safe passage for the humanitarian aid.  The church leaders support the leadership of former-Nigerian President Obasanjo in seeking unity and working towards a peaceful solution.  The fighting has so far displaced some 250,000 people.

The full text of the statement is shown below:

We lend our voices to the multitude of others in this country and beyond who are calling for an end to the humanitarian crisis in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. We call for an immediate strengthening of peacekeeping forces in the region to protect civilians and provide safe passage for the humanitarian aid, to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and displaced civilians, at risk of being caught up in fighting between various armed groups as well as being victims of targeted attacks against them.

We recognise and thank God for the contribution that churches of all denominations are struggling to make on the ground to address the overwhelming physical and psychological needs of their communities. Without shelter, in the middle of the rainy season, hungry, frightened and sick, many also face daily intimidation and violence. These men, women and children 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.

We 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. We pray for the leadership of former-Nigerian President Obasanjo as he seeks to bring the multitude of interested parties to the table and keep them there to ensure a just and sustainable solution.

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

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams

The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy O'Connor

Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Great Britain and co-president for England's other Churches

Commissioner Betty Matear, Moderator of the Free Churches of England and Wales, joint leader of The Salvation Army in the UK and the Republic of Ireland

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