Butembo (Fides Service) – An urgent call for help has been sent to Fides Service by Bishop Melchisedek Sikuli Paluku of Butemebo Beni diocese in the east Democratic Congo where rebel militia of the RCD-Goma, Rassemblement Congolais for Democracy appear to be directed. Fighting threatens to involve some 200,000 displaced persons who fled war and are sheltering in the area (see Fides 10 June 2003).
In his message Bishop Sikuli Paluku laments that “liturgical celebrations for Pentecost last Sunday in the parishes of Butembo-Beni diocese were either disturbed or cancelled because of attacks by RCD-Goma rebels. On Sunday 8 June in Butembo-Beni diocese Catholics were either unable to celebrate the Feast or Pentecost properly or not at all because of attacks which started at five in the morning”.
The Bishop says that “in April and May, reliable sources reported intense preparation for a widespread attack on the administrative territories of Lubero and Beni which cover a good part of Butembo-Beni diocese, 25,582 sq. km out of a total 45,000 sq. km.”
The Bishop affirms that “these attacks, the number of people killed has still to be ascertained, have sown panic among the densely populated villages and towns. As time passes there is growing fear and concern among the people, because the major military operation involves at least three battalions of RCD/Goma which aim to take within hours Lubero, and then Butembo and Beni”.
“In the face of the threat of unjustified occupation” Bishop Sikuli Paluku continues “as Bishop of Butembo-Beni, on behalf of the people and the 302,766 displaced persons who have sought shelter here from the tribal war in Bunia, I launch a cry of anguish to all who can take action stop the mortal and destabilising advance of the RCD-Goma troops”.
The Bishop’s appeal has been joined by the voice of the people of Butembo. Local sources contacted by Fides Service say people have taken to the streets calling for peace, asking not to be abandoned to their destiny. LM (Fides Service 11/6/2003 EM lines 35 Words: 394