World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
URGENT INTERNATIONAL ACTION NEEDED
A precarious peace, established in October 1997, collapsed just over a month ago. Militias loyal to former President Lissouba and former prime minister Kolelas took up arms again and were met with extreme brutality by the army and militias faithful to President Sassou Nguesso. The conflict is rapidly deteriorating along ethnic lines. Already thousands of people have been killed and it is estimated that 100,000-150,000 people have fled into the forests. The government has done virtually nothing to control the spiral of terror. Last November, militia forces attacked a mediation team from the country's Ecumenical Council of Churches. Six of the nine team members were killed.
In the face of desperate calls from church leaders in Congo-Brazzaville for help from the worldwide Christian community, WCC General Secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, has written to Dr Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, and the President of France, Mr Jacques Chirac.
Dr Raiser told Dr Annan of the WCC's "deep concern" over the worsening situation in Congo-Brazzaville, and the need for international action. "Remarkably, most church leaders have chosen to remain in the country, as close as possible to their communities, in the hope that circumstances will soon allow for them to retake their ministry of peace, tolerance and national reconciliation. It is in their name, and giving expression to their urgent concerns that I write, in the hope that their and other voices of the people of Congo-Brazzaville can be heard and responded to at the table of the Security Council and in other international forums."
In his letter to the Mr Chirac, Dr Raiser says he is writing to the French President, "as the leader of a country which is in a position to play a decisive role in encouraging greater involvement in Congo-Brazzaville on the part of the international community."
"We are aware that France has already undertaken efforts in this direction. But in view of the tragic evolution of the situation and fears of an impending escalation of the conflict, we believe it is possible to make further representations to the government of the Congo at diplomatic level, urging it to negotiate an end to hostilities and commit itself to a process of pacification and reconciliation."
"The intervention of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity is also urgently needed, in our view, as the present deteriorating situation is due at least in part to the lack of attention from the international community."
Dr Raiser calls on France to help mobilise international concern. "In view of the steadily deteriorating situation, we strongly hope that France will intensify its role as a peace-maker in the country and bring about greater involvement on the part of the international community."
"For our part, we undertake with the member churches of the World Council of Churches, and especially those in France, Europe and Africa, to accompany the churches of the Congo in their efforts for peace and reconciliation and to support them in the difficult times they are experiencing at present."
Copies of the letters (President Chirac: English and French; Dr Annan: English only) are available from the press office on request. Contact Sheila Mesa or John Newbury +41.22.791.61.51/2.
WCC staff Geneviève Jacques (English, French, Spanish) +41.22.791.62.07 and Huibert Van Beek (English, Dutch, French) +41.22.791.61.44 are available for interview or for more background information.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.