Church welcomes ceasefire in Burundi

 A ceasefire was declared last night between the government of Burundi and the FDD (Forces for the Defence of Democracy). News that the nine-year conflict has ended has been welcomed by church leaders in the country. The Missionary News Service report that Fr Rino Benzoni, superior of the St Francis Xavier Missionaries, who celebrate their patron's feast day today, said: " ..we ask the Lord to bless the Burundian population with the gift of peace. Let us hope that the hurdle overcome in Arusha in Tanzania marks a decisive step in the delicate path of reconciliation in the nation." Fr Rino Benzoni, said he was touched by the coincidence between the signing of a truce and liturgical solemnity of St Francis Xaverio, protector of his missionary institute. The Archbishop of Gitega in central Burundi, Mgr Simon Ntamwana, said: "We salute the signing of the cease-fire accord with great joy." "It is a moment of relief and hope, an occasion for reconciliation among Burundians though we still do not know how negotiations will proceed on each point." The Archbishop's diocese has been most affected by the war. He said: "At least now we have some truce to be able to work without being afraid of dying on the road or at a meeting." "I feel safe to say on behalf of the entire Burundian episcopacy that we welcome this moment with great hope." The path toward lasting peace is still long, said the Archbishop but he hoped other factions in the conflict would now be drawn into peace negotiations.

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