AFRICA/MALI - President of the Episcopal Conference:"Mali wants peace, Muslims have suffered the violence of the jihadists"

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "We desire peace, this is why Mali prays and hopes the peace agreement is signed", says to Fides His Exc. Mgr. Jean-Baptiste Tiama, Bishop of Sikasso and President of the Episcopal Conference Mali, in Rome for the Ad limina visit. On May 15 the peace agreement is expected to be signed in the Malian capital, Bamako, even by those groups in northern Mali that have not adhered to the preliminary agreement, reached in Algiers on 1 March (see Fides 7/3/2015).
"The State has done everything it had to do to reach the agreement, without peace there is no development. All areas of Mali and not just the north will benefit from the agreement", says Mgr. Tiama.
In the face of new violence in the North of Mali (on May 5 a dozen people died in clashes between the army and Tuareg groups in Ténenkou), Mgr. Tiama said: "In the south as in the north the people desire peace and we have to respond to the expectations of the people. It is up to us, religious, political, social leaders, to say what we are aiming for: the good of the people or perhaps something else?". The civil war has forced hundreds of thousands Malians to flee.
With regards to the humanitarian situation, the President of the Episcopal Conference said: "There are still some Malians displaced within their Country and other refugees in neighboring Countries, because they fear the validity of the peace process. The Minister of Reconciliation went to visit them in reception centers, in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, to try to reassure them and to ask them to return to Mali".
"The Church - adds the Bishop - does what it can in accommodating displaced people in every diocese in the Country. At a national level Caritas Mali is doing its best with the help of Caritas Europe. The Church also works for national reconciliation, because all religious leaders were invited to attend the process of reflection on national reconstruction, along with political and administrative leaders".
Finally, we ask what the interreligious relations are in the light of the violence of jihadist groups. "Not only Christians were victims of jihadists, Muslims suffered, too. Just think of the destruction of mosques in Timbuktu. We have all been affected by the violence of these groups - says Mgr. Tiama -.
In the rest of the Country, Christians and Muslims live together, often within the same families, and we want to continue to do so. Our Muslim brothers on the other hand say that Islam preached by jihadists is not their Islam, but an ideology from abroad, foreign to them", concluded the President of the Episcopal Conference. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 06/05/2015)