Pope appeals for end to Kenyan violence

By  John Thavis, Catholic News Service
  • January 7, 2008

{mosimage}VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an immediate end to ethnic violence in Kenya and called on political leaders to resolve the conflict there through "dialogue and democratic debate."

"Violence is futile as a means of resolving problems; it only exacerbates them and leads to unprecedented suffering," said a telegram sent Jan. 5 in the Pope's name to Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi, president of the Kenya Episcopal Conference.

The telegram, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, said the Pope has followed the recent flare-up of violence in Kenya with deep sorrow and concern. He is praying for a speedy end to this "great tragedy," it said.

"The Pope is close in spirit to all the victims of this violence: the many persons who have lost their lives, often atrociously, the grieving members of their families, the wounded, those who are dispossessed or had to abandon their homes, and all those who are threatened and living in fear," the telegram said.

The text noted that for many years Kenya has been an element of stability in a volatile region. It said the country should quickly banish the threat of ethnic conflict, "which continues to result in so many crimes in certain parts of Africa."

The papal telegram asked political leaders to "embark resolutely on the path of peace and justice."

It said Kenya's politicians would do well to follow the practical suggestions offered by a recent message of the country's bishops, "My Peace I Give You." In the message, the bishops offered to mediate the crisis and proposed an audit of recent election results in the wake of allegations of voting irregularities.

Human rights organizations said more than 300 people have died since the Dec. 27 presidential election in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner. Among those dead were up to 50 people burned alive in an Assemblies of God church where they had sought refuge in the city of Eldoret.

Thousands of ethnic Kikuyus, who have dominated Kenya's political and economic life since independence from Britain in 1963, have been forced to flee rampaging gangs. Kibaki is a Kikuyu.

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