Festus Tarawalie – Vatican City
The unrest broke out on the night of the 17 July. Youths of the city tried to prevent the relocation of a 1.65 Mega Watts thermal power generator to the town of Lungi where the country’s international airport is located. Security forces are reported to have shot and killed at least 5 people and critically wounded many others.
A troubling time
Bishop Paganelli in his 26 July statement expressed concern about the senseless loss of young lives. He said the Church would continue to pray for the peaceful repose of the departed souls and for the speedy recovery of the wounded in hospitals of Makeni and in the capital, Freetown.
“As a Diocese, we register our deepest and heartfelt sympathy and condolences to their grieving parents, family members and friends. May Almighty God grant them the comfort and consolation they desperately need at this troubling time,” the Bishop wrote.
Need for an independent investigation
While applauding the gesture of the republican president for sending a high-powered delegation to the city to examine the cause of the unrest, Bishop Paganelli said the Diocese supports the appeal of the people of Makeni for an independent investigation.
An “immediate, independent and transparent investigation be set up to address the cause of the violence, and that those held in custody be immediately released,” said Bishop Paganelli.
The Bishop further said the release of those arrested would help reduce tension and ease the bitterness and anger among the sons and daughters of the city of Makeni, both at home and abroad.
Stay focused on combatting COVID-19
This is not the time to “lose our focus on the fight against our common enemy, COVID-19, and its devastating socio-economic effects on all of us,” said the Makeni Diocese Apostolic Administrator.
As a Church, he continued, “We condemn all forms of violence, which we consider self-destructive and counterproductive.” He went on to reiterate the teaching of the Church, that “every human life is sacred and is of inestimable value in the sight of God, the creator.” He appealed to everyone to “respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life,” as we read in number 5 of Evangelium Vitae, the Church document on the value and inviolability of Human Life.
A call for dialogue and reconciliation
The statement called on all to pursue always the path of honest and constructive dialogue, mutual respect and fruitful reconciliation.
Bishop Paganelli reiterated Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s words in the second African synod document, Africae Munus, that, “reconciliation overcomes crisis, restores the dignity of individuals and opens up the path to development and lasting peace between peoples at every level.”
Bishop Paganelli, a member of the Xaverian Missionaries, called on everyone to preserve the peace, stability and cohesion of the country and to avoid divisive politics.
That the dark clouds of hate will give way to goodwill and unity
In concussion, Bishop Paganelli invited all parishioners and people of goodwill to continue to pray fervently and work passionately for the country “that the dark clouds of division, hate, mistrust and bad politics which are currently hovering over her head will soon pass away and the radiant stars of goodwill, understanding, unity and reconciliation will shine brightly over this land that we love, Sierra Leone.”
This is the second statement by Bishop Paganelli in just over two months. In the previous statement issued on 13 May following unrest in two cities and the killing of many inmates at the Pademba Road prison in Freetown, he urged Sierra Leoneans to stay the course of peace, avoid tribal divisions and embrace dialogue. He also called for an investigation into the spate of violence and for respect of human life.