Catholic agencies fear for staff in Rwanda

 SCIAF and CAFOD are extremely concerned for the safety of their partners in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Contact with partner organisations was lost on Wednesday morning following alarming reports that the lives of staff were threatened. The diocesan radio station along with the offices of local partners doing peace work in the area have been attacked and looted. Bukavu in Eastern DRC fell to rebel forces that morning following fierce fighting with DRC government troops. The clashes broke a ceasefire agreement in the area and have claimed a reported 40 lives. Around 100 civilians are receiving hospital treatment according to the Red Cross. SCIAF and CAFOD have written to Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn asking him to do all that he can to ensure the safety of Church and civil society workers in Bukavu. Some reports from the town claim that Rwandan soldiers were involved in the unrest. If the reports are true then Rwanda would be in contravention of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK government and the Rwandan government signed in January this year. Scotland's Cardinal Keith O'Brien who visited the area in January has voiced his disquiet at the news. "I am extremely concerned at the reports from Bukavu," he said. "When I visited earlier this year, I found the resilience of the people inspiring. "I would call on the international community to ensure the safety of the people in Bukavu especially Church and civil society workers who may be more at risk. They are in my prayers at this difficult time." CAFOD's Head of Africa Section, Maurice McPartlan added: "The reports coming from Bukavu are extremely disturbing. We are greatly saddened that our partners who are working hard to build peace in the region appear to have been targeted in the fighting. "Hilary Benn is an influential actor in the region and we are asking him to make representations to all the relevant parties to observe the ceasefire in the area." The Cardinal will remember the region this Sunday with a special Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh to commemorate the Rwandan genocide and its legacy of instability in the region. The Commemorative Mass for Rwanda and the region will take place on Sunday, 6th June at 7.30pm in St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh For further information on SCIAF visit:

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