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Saturday, 29 September, 2001, 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK
Church launches Angola peace effort
People voting for peace in a campaign of the Catholic Church in Angola
People at the launch voted almost unanimously for peace
By Justin Pearce in Luanda

The Catholic Church in Angola has launched a new campaign to end the war in the country, which has raged almost uninterrupted since independence in 1975.

The campaign - a joint venture with the international human rights organisation the Open Society Foundation - believes that the conflict between the government and the Unita rebels is being conducted against the will of Angolans.

An incomprehensible logic: Not wanting to make war, yet making war

Bishop Francisco de Mata Mourisca
The campaigners aim to mobilise civil society to put pressure on the warring parties to seek a negotiated peace.

On Saturday morning, 250 invited guests at the launch of the campaign in Luanda took part in a ballot.

They were asked whether they thought war was a solution to Angola's problems. Only one person voted yes.

It was a symbolic gesture, but one that the organisers of the new campaign against war believe reflects the views of the majority of Angolans.

United voice

They intend to repeat these ballots at churches and public meetings around Angola, with the intention of presenting a united voice in favour of peace in the country.

Bishop Francisco de Mata Mourisca in Angola
Bishop Francisco de Mata Mourisca, head of the Angolan Catholic peace movement
The campaign is also distributing posters, badges and stickers with messages of peace.

These had to be printed in Portugal, since Angolan printers asked a high price for a job they considered to be politically sensitive.

Recently, the Angolan Government has reiterated its intention to continue fighting to destroy the military capabilities of the Unita rebels if they do not disarm.

Unita, for its part, has expressed willingness for a bilateral ceasefire, but its military commander this week vowed to bring Unita's military activities closer to the capital.

A woman voting for peace in a campaign by the Catholic Church in Angola
The campaign will hold similar ballots at churches and public meetings
Bishop Francisco de Mata Mourisca, the head of the Angolan Catholic peace movement, said that the attitude of government and rebels reflected an incomprehensible logic.

"Not wanting to make war, yet making war; not wanting to kill, but ordering killings; not wanting there to be deaths, but causing deaths," he said.

Quest for peace

Guests at the launch then had the chance to air their views in a debate, which was broadcast live on the Catholic radio station, Radio Ecclesia.

A monk in Angola
Guests aired their views in a live radio broadcast
The message of the church's new campaign is that political rivalries should be set aside in favour of peace.

It argues that those waging the war are those who are least affected by its consequences.

Previous failed peace efforts have centred on diplomatic efforts to negotiate a settlement between the government and Unita.

The new campaign insists that the quest for peace be led by those who daily endure the realities of a conflict, which has gone on longer than most Angolans have been alive.

See also:

28 Sep 01 | Africa
Catastrophe facing Angola
25 Sep 01 | Africa
Unita hits Luanda power supply
27 Aug 01 | Africa
Many feared dead in Angola ambush
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
19 Jun 01 | Africa
Angola's civil war in pictures
13 Jun 01 | Africa
Savimbi: No end to war
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