Kampala (Fides Service) – “We are here with about 20,000 children and young people offering concrete solidarity to people being persecuted” Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu in northern Uganda tells Fides Service. “For four days I and leaders of other religions have been sleeping in the open to protect children who have fled their villages for fear of violence from the LRA” says the Archbishop. “The children are gathered in Gulu’s taxi car park. Besides sharing the discomfort of sleeping in the open we also provide food and clothing. The children are visibly comforted by the presence of their spiritual leaders. This action is a concrete example of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and solidarity.”
The Lord’s resistance Army LRA has ravaged northern Uganda for years, striking mainly the civilian population. Over the past few months the LRA has intensified its attacks, looting and sacking and kidnappings of unprotected village children and youths. To escape the violence many children have sought refuge in parishes and missions.
“By doing this we want not only to show solidarity with the children –the Archbishop explains – but also to draw international attention to this situation of conflict.”
On 20 June Catholic Bishops in Uganda and Sudan launched an appeal to the international community to intervene to put an end to the war in northern Uganda: “We appeal strongly to the United Nations to attend to the conflict in northern Uganda so that all the necessary measures are taken to protect civilians. We call on the different international bodies: heads of diplomatic missions, the East African Community, the African Union, the Inter-Government Authority for Development and the Arab League to support our request”.
Archbishop Odama explains: “This statement is the result of a two day work session of more than 50 Bishops from Uganda and Sudan. It is important because the wars in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan are connected. All religions are committed to peace. War is an evil which we hope to eradicate from our land” concludes Archbishop Odama. LM (Fides Service 26/6/2003 EM lines 31 Words: 372)