Pope appeals for an end to the violence in Chad

By staff writers
February 7, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI has made an appeal for an end to the current violence in Chad, as apart of a series of conversations to promote reconciliation with justice in a number of war-torn countries and regions.

"I feel particularly close to the people of Chad, tormented by painful civil conflicts which have caused numerous victims and the flight of thousands of civilians from the capital," the pontiff declared yesterday.

He added: "I launch a heartfelt appeal for people to lay down their arms and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation".

Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, has declared victory in the capital and other parts of the country after three days of fierce fighting between government troops and rebels, but humanitarian agencies say that the country's difficulties are far from resolved.

The violent confrontation has increased tensions between Chad and Sudan, threatening to pull the two neighbouring countries deeper into each other’s problems.

Each accuses the other of fomenting rebellions across their shared border. Now that Sudanese rebels who had previously been focused on their own struggle in the western Sudanese province of Darfur have come to the aid of Mr Déby, it has added fuel to the cross-border enmity, reports the New York Times.

Observers fear that developments like these increase the chances that the entire region could fall into a large, uncontrolled conflict like the one that engulfed the Great Lakes region of Central Africa after the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Civic and religious leaders have been asking both sides to step back from the brink, but there is widespread concern over the actions of Chad's government.

The pope also addressed a delegation of parliamentarians from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, discussing tensions in the region and the role of the church.

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