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Church leaders unite in pastoral letter to the churches and people of Ethiopia amid conflict

by Kelly Valencia

After a conflict in which hundreds are thought to have died, Christian leaders have pleaded with Ethiopians to "choose peaceful ways to address conflicts". 

The World Council of Churches and the Anglican Communion, among other organisations, have issued a joint pastoral letter addressed to the churches and people of Ethiopia. 

It comes after a national conflict erupted last month between the northwest region represented by the Tigray's People's Liberation Front and Ethiopia's government. Hundreds are thought to have died while more than 50,000 have fled to neighbouring Sudan.  

In the letter, church leaders encourage the people of Ethiopia to "choose peaceful ways to address conflicts and differences" and pray for wisdom and strength "to minister to the people of Ethiopia in this hour of need". 

The letter reads: "We join you in grieving for the deaths, injuries, displacement and divisions resulting from the tragic conflict in the northern part of the country.

"We are deeply concerned about the hardship and loss inflicted on the civilian population, especially the most vulnerable including women, children and the physically challenged. We commiserate with all who have lost loved ones because of this crisis and pray for God's comfort in their grief.

"Be assured of our prayers for all the people of Ethiopia. As disciples of Christ and as partners in Christ's mission, we are bound together by love and compassion, especially for such moments as these, to share each other's pain, and to lift each other up. We pray with you for an end to the conflict, the safe return of those who have been displaced, and for an inclusive reconciliation process that will lead to sustainable peace for all in Ethiopia. "

Human rights organisations are asking the Government for an aid corridor as it is reported that many thousands, especially those in refugee camps in the Tigray regions, are without access to basic necessities. 

So far, the UN is warning that women are having to travel 25km to fetch water and that there is a lack of medical supplies, therefore impeding healthcare workers and especially pregnant women. 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said there is corroborated evidence of "gross human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "reports of forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities. There are also reports of aid workers killed during the conflict in Tigray". 

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