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Appeal for Peace and Humanitarian Action in Congo-Brazzaville

29 November 1999

Statement  issued at the conclusion of a consultation of concerned church leaders, Paris, 29-30 November 1999.

On 29 and 30 November, the World Council of Churches, in collaboration with the French Protestant Federation, convened a consultation in Paris on the situation in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). It was attended by delegates from the Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches of Congo, the French Protestant Federation, Free Churches in Sweden, Norway and Finland, the All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

The people of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) are experiencing an unimaginable tragedy as a result of a fratricidal war in which atrocities of the worst kind have been committed both by the militias and by the public forces of order (pillaging, humiliation, rape, murder). Vast sections of the population have fled into the forests, cut off from any form of help. The people are in a state of total disarray and destitution.

There are some voices calling for peace, and we are particularly touched by those of the women who, with the children, are the first victims of this war.

We want to let all these cries of suffering be heard, despite the blanket of silence that prevents international opinion from being informed of this human tragedy. This was the first objective of our meeting.

It is our duty as churches in France, in the Nordic countries, the Congo and in the worldwide ecumenical fellowship to echo this appeal for peace. We are ready to do all in our power to make it heard.

We welcome the peace initiatives that have been taken to date. But, once again, we fervently urge the principal warring parties to come to the negotiating table without further delay. We believe this negotiating table should be offered by a trusted international partner, acceptable to all and of guaranteed neutrality, who could undertake to accompany any peace agreements that might result from the negotiations. Under the leadership of the World Council of Churches, our churches are ready to accompany the implementation of this process and to follow it through to the end.

We draw attention to a desperate humanitarian emergency to which the response of international aid has so far been cruelly inadequate. We call upon the Congolese government and the international aid agencies to prepare a response in keeping with the scale of the people's distress.

We direct this appeal first to our own emergency aid instrument, ACT (Action of Churches Together), urging it to join in actions already started, notably by the Free Churches of the Nordic countries and other bodies present in Congo.

We appeal to all parties in the conflict to guarantee safe passage for the transport and distribution of humanitarian aid.

In the situation of distress confronting us in the Republic of Congo we draw inspiration from the biblical vision of Psalm 85:

"Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other." (Psalm 85:10)

Nonetheless, we accept that we must begin by bringing an end to the suffering, addressing the immediate needs and restoring trust.

It is for the Congolese people to effect the work of truth and reconciliation.