Pope to Africans: Peace Needs Justice


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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is urging an end to violence in Darfur and Kampala, but reminding that a mere absence of conflict does not constitute true peace.

The Pope called for justice in Sudan and Uganda when he gave individual messages in writing to new ambassadors to the Holy See from those two nations and six others.

Three of the new ambassadors are from Africa; in addition to the Sudanese and Ugandan representatives, the Kenyan ambassador also presented his credentials on Thursday.

In English-language addresses for the three Africans, the Holy Father reflected on true peace that comes from "the establishment of justice, reconciliation and solidarity."

In the address to Francis Butagira of Uganda, the Pontiff lamented how the "campaign of violence in the north of the country has devastated large areas. The tragedy for the local populations is clear for all to see. Some have had their childhood shattered and have been forced to commit deplorable crimes; there has been extensive destruction of property; widows and orphans are living in dire poverty; and many displaced persons are still unable or afraid to return to their villages and fields."

Benedict XVI noted how it is understood that the situation is improving somewhat, and he expressed his hope that "the lack of security will finally be replaced by a stable peace and prosperity for the sorely tried people of the area."

Africa synod

The Pope noted how reconciliation and peace were precisely the themes of the special synod on Africa, held at the Vatican in October.

"The experience of the Church on your continent has shown that the mere absence of conflict does not constitute peace," he said. "It is only through the establishment of justice, reconciliation and solidarity that true and lasting peace and stability can be achieved."


In his address to Sulieman Mohamed Mustafa of Sudan, the Pope spoke not only of ongoing horrors in the Darfur region, but also of the right to religious freedom.

The Holy Father said the four-year-old Comprehensive Peace Agreement gave hope when it was signed, and the "expectations generated by this agreement [...] must be kept alive."

He lamented how "the people of Darfur continue to suffer greatly."

"Negotiated agreements between armed groups have been slow and faltering and are in urgent need of support from all sides," the Pope affirmed. "Respect for civilian populations and their basic human rights, and responsibilities in relation to national and regional stability clearly require renewed attempts to seek lasting agreements.

"It is my heartfelt hope that all parties may pursue every opportunity for settlement through dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. This is the only way that will lead to stability -- underpinned by truth, justice and reconciliation -- for the Darfur region and for the rest of the country."

Same affection

Turning to the issue of minority rights, the Pontiff noted how Sudan faces "the challenge of seeking a true and just balance between conserving cultural values that mark the identity of the majority of the population while respecting the rights and freedom of minorities."

Religious freedom must be protected by the state, the Holy Father asserted, and this should include rights to schooling.

He explained: "[F]amilies of a religious minority living where schools have educational programs suitable for the religious majority, rightly look for the recognition of their parental rights to determine the education of their children without hindrance from the law.

"Both Muslim and Christian parents share the same affection and concern for their children and their welfare, especially regarding their religious upbringing."

Sudan is 70% Muslim and only 5% Christian.


Finally, in addressing Elkanah Odembo of Kenya, Benedict XVI contended that nations struck by poverty must share in the responsibility of overcoming it.

These countries "need to give priority to the fight against corruption and the effort to distribute wealth more equitably," he said. "By correcting the malfunctions that cause divisions between and within peoples, it should be possible to harness the positive potential of the process of globalization so as to ensure a redistribution of wealth and thereby to 'steer the globalization of humanity in relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods.'"