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AEC expresses solidarity for Suriname

Suriname President Desi Bouterse (centre) arrives for the reopening of the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Paramaribo on November 14, 2010. CN ARCHIVES

…urges care for Venezuelan refugees

The bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) have expressed concern for order, justice and peace in Suriname and Venezuela.

In a statement issued April 30 following their Annual Plenary Meeting in Rome, April 23–26, the bishops expressed solidarity with the people of Suriname at a “difficult stage” of their history, as they await the verdict of the Court on the matter of the December 8, 1982 killings. On this date, 15 prominent opponents of the military dictatorship of Desi Bouterse were tortured and killed. Bouterse, who was elected President in 2010, is being tried in a court in the Netherlands.

The AEC bishops believe it is “a deep concern of many leaders in Suriname and the international community” that the result of this case “may bring social unrest regardless of the verdict”.

They further called on CARICOM and the international community to accompany the Government and the people of Suriname during this difficult time and for a process to ensure the impasse becomes “an opportunity for reconciliation among all parties involved and the nation as a whole”.

“While we acknowledge the legitimate authority of the Court to adjudicate in this matter, we believe there is a need to also express our concern for order, stability and harmony in the nation in the short and medium term.”

The AEC bishops pledged solidarity with Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo, the Christian Council and the Inter Religious Council in their effort to bring “justice, peace and lasting reconciliation” for its people.

Meanwhile, the bishops also noted the worsening humanitarian situation in Venezuela and “political problems” which have resulted in scarcity of food, medicine and basic necessities.

“It has led to a stream of refugees to neighbouring countries. These countries are not equipped to deal with such calamities,” the statement said.

Similarly, the bishops urged the international community, especially CARICOM to help seek a lasting solution to the political impasse in Venezuela. They also asked citizens to be generous to the refugees and provide them with the essentials, such as food and shelter (See Conversations with Archbishop J – Page 24).

The statement said the bishops too stand in solidarity with brother bishops in Venezuela as they discern the way forward for the Venezuelan people.

They also regret that innocent lives, especially of children are at stake through undernourishment and the degeneration of medical and educational facilities.

The AEC bishops prayed that Our Lady of Coromoto keep her Venezuelan children under her mantle.