Solidarity Message of SECAM to the People of the Great Lakes Region
9th March 2009
“May the Grace and Peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (2 Cor 1.2).
We, the members of the Standing Committee of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), composed of two Cardinals, seven Bishops and our supporting staff held our first meeting of the year here in Bujumbura, Burundi from 28th February to 4th March 2009 as a concrete expression of our resolve to rotate such meetings in order to consolidate the existing communion and pastoral solidarity among the Catholic Bishops of Africa, Madagascar and the surrounding Islands. By so doing, we welcome the opportunity to intensify our collaboration with the local Church, to “know, taste and see” the experience and reality of the host nation and to present SECAM to the Family of God in the local community.
We received an extremely warm hospitality from the Government of the Republic of Burundi, the Apostolic Nuncio to the country, the regional and national Catholic Episcopal Conferences and the people of God in Burundi. We celebrated our common faith in Christ with the local Church at the opening Mass at the sanctuary of Mary of Mount Zion Gikungu, Bujumbura. We shared the joys and hopes, the aspirations and challenges of our brothers and sisters in Burundi. We listened attentively to our brother Bishops and the President of the Republic of Burundi about the socio-political and religio-cultural situation of the country; and indeed of the whole region of the Great Lakes. On account of this, and in spite of messages already issued by national and regional Episcopal Conferences in this regard, we still address this solidarity message to all members of the Family of God in the region.
3. THE COMPLEXITY OF THE SITUATION IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION
After listening attentively to all those who shared personal and concrete experiences with us, it emerged that the situation in the Great Lakes Region is rather complex, with historical, cultural, political, social, economic, religious and even ideological dimensions. Indeed, the factors for the unrest and/or fragile peace and reconciliation are multiple. And the search for lasting peace and stability for Burundi, Rwanda and D. R. Congo must necessarily involve a lot of stakeholders within and beyond the region. Hence countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Central African Republic and Sudan are highly encouraged to do their best to support peace initiatives in the region, the same applies to countries that have been co-opted to assist in achieving lasting peace in the region, namely, Egypt, South Africa, Namibia and Congo Brazzaville.
We commend the Apostolic Nuncio to Burundi, the Bishops, the clergy, the religious and lay faithful for their inviolable contributions towards reconciliation and peaceful co-existence among the people of the country. Similarly, we commend all other initiatives and efforts by the African Union, European Union, United Nations and eminent personalities which have led to the signing of peace and ceasefire accord in the region.
5. INVITATION TO LISTEN TO “CHRIST OUR PEACE” (Eph. 2.14)
As pastors of the Church, we appeal to all in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who reconciled us with God and with one another through his crucifixion, death and resurrection and thus destroyed the enmity between God and humanity, as well as hatred among the children of God, also here in Africa, to give peace a chance through forgiveness and reconciliation.
We pray that the strength of love, pardon, reconciliation and peace will overcome the force of guns and military victories. We equally encourage all efforts for personal, national and regional reconciliation.
And may “Christ our Peace” hear our plea and grant his peace to our bothers and sisters in the Great Lakes Region.
Polycarp Cardinal Pengo
President of SECAM
Archbishop of Dar es Salaam