“Foster dialogue, stop spiral of violence”:
Bishops in Senegal’s Dakar Metropolitan
The ongoing violence in Senegal that started last week is a cause for concern for Catholic Bishops in the Ecclesiastical Province of Dakar who are calling on parties in conflict to “foster dialogue” and end the skirmishes.
Violence broke out in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on March 3 when opposition member, Ousmane Sonko, who was headed to court in the company of his supporters to answer to rape charges, was arrested for disrupting public order after he, alongside his supporters, refused to change the route to the court.
At least five people, including a 17-year-old school boy, have been killed in the protests while property including the French businesses, Auchan, Total and Eiffage, have been torched. Schools in the country have also been closed until March 15 due to the violence.
“Let us stop the spiral of violence! While there is still time, let's try to limit the damage, and even stop it,” the Catholic Bishops in the Metropolitan of Dakar say in their Monday, March 8 statement that was also read at a press conference.
They call on the parties in conflict in the West African country to “foster dialogue, which is only possible in a context of peace and serenity.”
In their collective statement, which Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye read out at the Press Conference, the Catholic Church leaders urge all Senegalese to make it their “common cause to save our nation” as they owe it to God and the future generations.
“We owe it to the Creator, in whom we believe, who expects from all of us a sincere and true commitment for the good of all,” they say.
They add, “We also owe it to the younger generations who expect their elders to inherit the ideals of truth, righteousness, justice, understanding and peace, as a precious heritage received from our ancestors.”
In their March 8 statement, the Catholic Prelates who comprise the Local Ordinaries of Dakar Archdiocese and the Dioceses of Kaolack, Kolda, Saint-Louis, Tambacounda, Thiès and Ziguinchor express their concerns about “human lives that have been torn from the affection of their loved ones, as a result of the unleashing of blind violence!”
“Seriously injured people will bear the scars of our violence for the rest of their lives,” they further say, adding that “public and private property, the fruit of a patrimony acquired through work, has been ransacked, looted, stolen, without any moral or ethical consideration, defying all justice, making the situation of many workers and their families even more precarious.”
Further, the Bishops say that the violence shows how the Senegalese people “could tip over into blind violence, which could threaten our social cohesion, if we allow ourselves to be dominated by our passions and personal interests.”
Describing the violence as a testimony to a “deep crisis within our Senegalese society,” the Bishops pose, probe, “Doesn't it then call us to measure our responsibilities and to pull ourselves together, all of us, and at all levels, from the top of the State to the citizen, through all State institutions, economic, social, cultural and religious structures, in the name of respect for human life and the Common Good?”
They call on God to bless the West African nation and her people and that He makes “a wind of reconciliation and peace blow in our hearts and minds.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa