.- As the African nation of Chad suffers under the scourge of violence, Pope Benedict XVI has launched a âheartfelt appeal for people to lay down their arms and follow the path of dialogue and reconciliation.â
The Pope issued his call as thousands of civilians have been caught in the middle of fighting between the sitting government and rebels accusing the president of corruption and embezzlement of oil revenue.
"In these days", he said, "I feel particularly close to the dear people of Chad, tormented by painful civil conflicts which have caused numerous victims and the flight of thousands of civilians from the capital. Also to your prayers and to your solidarity I entrust these suffering brothers and sisters, asking they be spared further violence, and that vital humanitarian assistance be guaranteed.â
A rebel attack last weekend on Chadâs capital Ndjamena left the streets strewn with bodies and about 1,000 people injured. It also triggered an exodus of up to 30,000 people from the city, fleeing to neighboring Cameroon and Nigeria, according to the International Red Cross.
Franceâs defense minister is making an unannounced visit to the country to consider offering military assistance. Meanwhile, rebel forces, which have pulled back from the capital, warned France today against intervening militarily to support President Idriss Deby Itnoâs regime.
The Holy Father also addressed a delegation of parliamentarians from Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, at todayâs general audience saying: "I offer my prayerful good wishes for their efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace in the region.â