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A Plea for Reconciliation

 

 

A Plea for Reconciliation

 A Message from the Catholic Bishops of Rhodesia

 July 1978


 Reasons compelling our appeal for reconciliation

1.Ten thousand lives have already been lost in the war in Rhodesia since 1972. Government statistics reveal that nearly a quarter of that total have been killed in the first six months of this year. That ever-mounting loss of life is itself compelling reason enough to call for reconciliation. Apart from these poor victims, there is also the agony of the other seven million inhabitants of this country to be considered. The imminent danger of total civil war in Rhodesia, with all its frightful consequences, compels us to renew our urgent appeal for reconciliation.[1]

2.Most of the ordinary people in this country live in fear and do not dare speak their minds. They fear for their lives and the lives of their dear ones. In their wisdom, and in the depths of their hearts they are crying out for an end to violence: they want truth, freedom, justice and peace. We hear their cry. Our ministry of reconciliation cannot remain insensitive to the plight of those millions of people.

 Our Ministry is a ministry of reconciliation[2]

3.The Church is expected to be “the moral conscience of the society in which we live”. (Paul VI). Woe betide the Church if she disregards that inexorable ministry.

4.To fulfil such a duty is not an easy task, especially when feelings run high, and when prejudice and political antagonism are deeply rooted. Those who preach peace are often mistrusted by both sides and may be accused of favouritism, opportunism and partiality.  They must even be prepared to become the victims of both the conflicting factions they seek to reconcile.

5.With the freedom and faith of the Gospel, and indeed with a great deal of prudence, the Church seeks to enlighten the darkness of men’s minds, to check falsehood with the truth, and to disarm the bitterness of their hearts with love. It is at the level of malice, falsehood and bitterness that all wars are plotted.

War is not the final answer to our problems

6.All wars are the result of failure of reconciliation. Peace consists in trust, and can only exist where people trust each other. War is the negation of mutual trust.

7.We reiterate the words of Pope Paul: “War has always been, in itself, a supremely irrational and morally unacceptable means of regulating relations between states or peoples, - but this is without prejudice to the right of legitimate defence”.

8.Taught by bitter experience, people have come to realise that the romantic idea of a war of liberation has lost its deceptive glamour. It has meant burning, breaking, hurting, killing: it has left a legacy of tears, blood, ruins and dead bodies.

9.Once war starts, the use of force becomes uncontrollable. Civil wars in particular result in a spiral of escalating violence. The laws of war mean that the opponents must each hit each other harder and harder until one side is crushed as victim. The hotter the fight, the blinder the opponents, until cruelty and madness reign supreme. More than anyone else, it is the innocent whose names appear on the ver lengthening lists of casualties.

Destroy the war before the war destroys the country

10.War is powerless to eliminate the deep-seated causes of all wars. War is equally powerless, to restore to order the disorder that caused it. It is not force but reason alone that can resolve the conflict.

11.Violence is at best a last recourse in unavoidable necessity. It is not the normal way to bring about justice. Tragically war may sometimes be the last resort left for bringing about the justice that is necessary for peace to flourish. In that extreme case, politicians have to assume full personal responsibility, both before God and before all mankind, for their decisions. They must accept the responsibility for all the consequences, the risk of life, and the victims of the warfare. This unfortunately seems to be the situation in this country at present.

Action for reconciliation

12.Politicians and military leaders!

· We ask you to bring this war to an end.

· We ask you to stop the war now before it destroys the country.

· We ask you to use reason and dialogue, not force, to settle the conflict.

· We ask you to dismantle all the racial discrimination of the present political order.

· We ask you to establish now a just new order; based on mutual reconciliation and inspired by genuinely Christian values.

· We ask you to demonstrate with your deeds that conversion of heart so sorely needed by this country and all the world.

13. Combatants

· We ask you to realise that moral law is still valid in war time, and for combatants.

· We ask you to remember that the daily killing and torturing of innocent and defenceless people cannot be justified under the pretext of fighting a war; that such acts are horrible crimes that cry to Heaven for vengeance; and that the Church cannot but reject and condemn them.

· We ask you, in the name of humanity, to do all you can to de-escalate the war and bring it to an end.

· We ask you, while the fighting lasts, at least to observe strictly the international rules of the Geneva Convention.

14 All People of Society

· We ask you to repent of your hard-heartedness.

· We ask you to be reconciled one with another.

· We ask you to behave with such courtesy and kindness that the daily occasions of racial friction may be replaced by charity and equality.

15.Fellow Catholics and all Men of Good Will!

· We earnestly beg you to pray for peace.

We remind you of the words of Pope Paul: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers: and if indeed he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Our ministry of reconciliation urges us all men of good will to be living witnesses of peace.

Peace is chiefly God’s gift.

P. Chakaipa,

Archbishop of Salisbury

H. Karlen, CMM,

Bishop of Bulawayo

T.Chiginya,

Bishop of Gwelo

D.A. Clarke, O. Carm.,

Apostolic Administrator of Umtali

Prieto, SMI,

Bishop of Wankie

H. Reckter, SJ,

Prefect Apostolic of Sinoia

 

 

Notes

[1] Reconciliation in Rhodesia, A Message from the Catholic Bishops of Rhodesia, 21 January, 1974

[2] 2 Corinthians 5: 18-20 “It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation. In other words, God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding men’s faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that they are reconciled. So we are ambassadors for Christ: it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God.”