Odama Writes Letter On Kony

( [email protected] ) Jul 05, 2003 10:00 AM EDT

The Catholic Archbishop of Gulu, John Baptist Odama, has written a pastoral letter denouncing the war in northern Uganda.

Odama condemns "the cruel conduct of the warring parties" and weeps over the intolerable suffering of children and mothers.

"Do we realise that when you torture a mother you torture a nation?" wrote Odama, one of the seven religious leaders from northern Uganda who last week slept in the streets of Gulu with children driven out of their homes by the fear of being abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army rebels.

"It is because of love of you that I, Shepherd of Christ, cannot keep quiet when

I see the daily humiliation and misery of my people," reads the pastoral letter dated June 29.

While preaching the Christian values of forgiveness and reconciliation, Odama warns that: "All those who continue to attack us, our churches, our schools and families are indeed daring to attack the Almighty God."

The LRA rebel leader, Mr Joseph Kony, last month reportedly ordered his fighters to attack Catholic missions and to kill all the priests in the war-torn area.

Archbishop Odama's letter calls for the serious involvement of the international community in resolving the 17-year-old conflict in northern Uganda.

"There is a way out of this long suffering, a way to save people in northern Uganda," Odama said. "It is forgiveness, reconciliation and above all love."

President Yoweri Museveni recently criticised Odama and the other religious leaders for seeking the intervention of the international community to resolve the conflict.

In his letter, however, Archbishop Odama says that the rest of the world can help.

"Surely we are at the point when the civil war should be addressed and solved by national and international communities because these evil effects are rooted, as we see, both inside and outside Uganda," wrote the man of God.

"We cannot ignore or close our eyes to the cruel conduct of warring parties and their daily heavy consequences on the children," he said.

The LRA, which has been fighting the government since 1988, relies largely on abductions to boost its ranks and is believed to have kidnapped some 10,000 children since 1995.

Captured boys are forced into rebel ranks as soldiers, and girls are often turned into concubines for rebel commanders.

An estimated 20,000 children in the north every day brave the cold nights on shop-front verandas in Kitgum, Gulu and Pader towns for fear of being abducted if they stayed in their own homes outside the town centres.

The fighting has displaced about 1,000,000 people, and they live miserable lives in the protected camps that dot northern Uganda.