Updated: July 23, 2021 04:53 AM GMT
A member of the Afar Special Forces holds a gun next to a damaged house in the village of Bisober in Ethiopia's Tigray region in December 2020. (Photo: AFP)
Expressing compassion and solidarity with the people affected by war in Ethiopia's Tigray region, the Ethiopian bishops' conference said it is not too late to end the violence that has left thousands of people dead and 2 million more displaced.
"As pastors, we can only give hope from what we have, and this is the hope that comes from our faith ... to acknowledge that the only way forward, for the good of the people, is peace and reconciliation, to satisfy the demands of truth and justice, to ask for and grant forgiveness," the bishops said July 16 at the conclusion of their planned assembly.
The bishops said they prayed for peace and the protection of all people, as violence and the resulting humanitarian crisis continued to grip Tigray in northern-most Ethiopia.
War has continued in the region since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched an offensive against rebel forces in November. At the time, Ahmed said the fighting would be over in weeks, but the violence has raged since.
United Nations officials in June declared that parts of Tigray were in the midst of famine because of the war, with more than 400,000 struggling to find food. The U.N. Security Council in early July warned that as many as 33,000 children were severely malnourished.
Meeting for four days in Modo, southeast of the capital of Addis Ababa, the bishops said the suffering the people are enduring "saddens our hearts ... while all would like to hear about peace and reconciliation."
We all want to see a country where all Ethiopians embrace each other as brothers and sisters
"We identify with them, their anguish is our anguish. Our compassion must be expressed in concrete solidarity," the bishops said.
They prelates also called on authorities in the region to allow full access to humanitarian aid the various relief agencies are attempting to provide.
"We all want to see a country where all Ethiopians embrace each other as brothers and sisters. We kindly urge all parties involved that war only destroys lives and properties and nothing more and the choice to be made should not be war but peace and reconciliation," the bishops said.
Meanwhile, the church leaders offered prayers for Bishop Tesfasilassie Medhin of the Eparchy of Adigrat. He has been unable to join the bishops' assembly since the fighting began.
The war erupted as Ethiopia faced surges in ethnic violence across Africa's second most populous nation. The widespread violence is stoking fears that the country potentially may be torn apart and could spread elsewhere and destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.