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Priests at the conclusion of the Regional Union of West African Priests conference in Guinea Bissau (CNA/Fr Peter Konteh)

West African priests have discussed their response to regional violence at a conference in Guinea Bissau. Source: The Tablet.

The tenth Conference of the Regional Union of West African Priests, which concluded on June 9, addressed the theme “The prophetic role of priests in the face of intolerance and ethnic-religious instrumentalisation in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Attendees discussed the causes, impacts and possible solutions to the civil wars, religiously motivated terrorism, separatist insurgencies, military coups and communal strife afflicting several states where the Church has a major social role.

Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles of Freetown, Sierra Leone, told participants that the theme was relevant “because our West African sub-region is witnessing a surge of conflicts of various kinds, including those of ethnic and religious nature”.

“In such a situation, we priests have a vital role in spearheading conflict resolution and reconciliation because we are ordained to be ministers of a Church established by Jesus Christ to be a sacrament of union with God and of unity of all men and women.”

He said he hoped the participating priests would “address this challenge to the credibility of our Church as a sacrament of union with God and of unity of all men and women”.

The archbishop said colonialism was among the central causes of continued conflict, accusing Western powers of partitioning Africa “without any regard for the ethnic and traditional consistencies of the continent”.

He said colonial powers “dumped together” regions that were previously autonomous kingdoms and political entities, and called them nation-states.

Consequently, many African countries emerged as amalgamations of tribes and kingdoms, lacking inherent unity. This historical legacy still influences the region today, reflected in the prevalence of political parties rooted in tribal and ethnic identities.

Fr Peter Konteh, the executive director of Caritas Freetown said that to address the roots of conflict, priests needed to stand firmly on the side of truth and avoid partisanship.


Priests discuss response to spread of violence in West Africa (By Ngala Killian Chimtom, The Tablet)