Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
June 21, 2000
The brutal war in Sierra Leone has caused intense human suffering and has destroyed the national infrastructure. More than 75,000 people have been killed; more than 10,000 boys and girls have been abducted and forced into military service; thousands of children and adults have been mutilated; and over two million people have been displaced.
Despite claims by the commanders of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) that it is engaged in a war against tyranny and injustice, their actions demonstrate that the true causes of the war center on the thirst for power and money. Regional neighbors play a role in sustaining the war and perpetuating the atrocities in order to profit from an illegal trade in diamonds and conventional weapons.
We urge increased diplomatic efforts by the international community, and the west African nations in particular, to end the war and disarm the aggressors. This will not be successful without the constructive engagement of neighboring states.
As the people of Sierra Leone attempt to end the war and move towards peace, security, justice and national reconciliation, I call upon the international community, and the United States. in particular, to exercise greater leadership in assuming its responsibility in the face of this humanitarian crisis. First, international diplomatic efforts must be intensified to bring an end to this war. Second, disarmament of the aggressors is paramount. The mandate of multinational peacekeepers must include the capacity to disarm the aggressors to prevent further atrocities against the civilian population. The U.S. government should provide adequate financial and logistical support for such efforts. Third, the rule of law and order must return to Sierra Leone. This will require special financial and technical assistance in order to strengthen the political, juridical, and security infrastructures of the country. Fourth, demobilization and reintegration of rebel forces into civilian life is critical for a lasting peace and will require financial support. Finally, programs of national dialogue and reconciliation are urgently needed to heal the deep wounds inflicted on the heart and soul of the people of Sierra Leone.
I call upon all people of faith to reflect upon the needs of the people of Sierra Leone and to pray for a deep and lasting peace. Our prayers must help to sustain them as they deal with a legacy of violence and as they pursue the principles of justice, truth, and reconciliation.