AFRICA/SIERRA LEONE - Violence on the streets: the Church calls for peace in a polarized nation

Saturday, 1 August 2020 politics   human rights   violence   local churches   peace   civil society  

Makeni (Agenzia Fides) - The recent past, made of civil war and atrocities, causes an alarm signal to light up whenever outbreaks of violence are awakened in Sierra Leone. Clashes have occurred in Makeni, the capital of the northern province, in the past few weeks which have caused victims and many wounded. The Church immediately wanted to call everyone to calm and Apostolic Administrator of Makeni, Bishop Natale Paganelli, expressed concern, calling for reconciliation before clashes escalate into social conflict.
Father Paul Morana Sandi, Secretary General of the Inter-territorial Conference of the Bishops of Gambia and Sierra Leone, reached by Agenzia Fides, explained the latest events and the intervention of the Church as follows: "On July 17 and 18 the first news of serious incidents between security forces and young demonstrators arrived. The reason for the revolt was the transfer of an energy generator from Makeni to Lungi. Similar situations have occurred in other areas of the Country such as Lunsar and Tombo. In some cases, contact between police forces and demonstrators led to the death of several people, the injury of others and the loss of property. Some versions speak of interference and exploitation by different political factions: in a highly polarized society, this is likely to be the case. In any case, the response of the security forces is currently being put in the spotlight, just as the need for young people to adopt attitudes marked by greater moderation has been underlined. In recent days, civil society groups have called for an independent investigation and measures to prevent similar incidents".
The Catholic Church, always attentive to outbreaks of violence, has addressed various appeals to the population, all calling for calm and prudence. "Mgr. Natale Paganelli wrote two Pastoral Letters. He called everyone to dialogue and reconciliation, a very positive choice in my opinion if we consider our recent past and our fragile democracy. The request to every Sierra Leonean citizen is to continue to seek and live peace and unity, the only way to ensure the country's development and prosperity. The Church continues to preach peace and reconciliation in a society strongly divided at a regional and political level. Through churches and other institutions we try to raise awareness of the need to keep the country on the path to peace and respect for the rule of law". Father Paul Morana Sandi concludes: "It also seems absurd that such accidents take place at a time when we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. As a Church we collaborate with the Government and our international donor partners in the fight against Covid-19 and we encourage all citizens to respect health rules and protocols in order to guarantee health for themselves and others". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 1/8/2020)