Caritas in Ivory Coast: Waiting to See

Cardinal Turkson Carries Assurance of Church's Solidarity

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ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, APRIL 12, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A Caritas official in Ivory Coast says the situation of the nation still calls for caution after former President Laurent Gbagbo was captured Monday.

Jean Djoman, director of Development and Human Promotion for Caritas in Abidjan, spoke of still hearing firearms Monday night and this morning, according to Fides.

"For the moment we must be cautious because we do not know how the situation will evolve," Djoman said. "In several districts of Abidjan youth from both sides were armed, and fighting between them continued. When security forces backed by the U.N. are deployed to the neighborhoods, they will risk confrontation with the various armed groups."

The Caritas leader expressed uncertainty about how those who supported Gbagbo would act under the new president.

Moreover, Djoman noted the "serious" humanitarian situation, "because the relief organizations, due to insecurity, are still not able to get into the area to assist displaced people and more generally the city's entire population.

"There is an acute lack of basic foodstuffs in the markets," he stated. "When there is food, it is extremely expensive. [...] The supply of drinking water and electricity has been restored in almost all parts of Abidjan, although there are often interruptions to service."

“In these conditions the resumption of complete humanitarian activities is conditioned to the creation of a calmer environment,” Djoman affirmed.

The apostolic nuncio in Ivory Coast, Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, lamented that civilians are always the victims in war.

He spoke with Fides about the tragedy -- "heavy weapons, slaughters, people burned alive."

“The displaced people are really deprived of everything, because they were forced to leave everything in order to escape," the archbishop said. "They are lacking food, clean water, medicine and clothes. We are assisting these people by sharing with them the little that we have. But faced with the seriousness of the situation and their great need, we need help."

Benedict XVI sent a special envoy to Ivory Coast to assure his solidarity. However, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was stuck for days in his native Ghana, the eastern neighbor of Ivory Coast, since there were no flights into Abidjan and the United Nations declined to get him into the country.

On Saturday, he spoke with Vatican Radio about his mission to transmit the Pope's solidarity, and that of the universal Church, to the victims of the conflict.

The role of the Church in such matters, Cardinal Turkson said, is "to try to detain the conflict from spreading, to promote dialogue among the parties, to encourage the people, and to bring to the population the consolation, assistance and solidarity of the universal Church."