Bishops in Kazakhstan have made an impassioned plea for peace in the wake of the violence that has rocked the country.
In messages sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Church leaders appealed for prayers for the victims of the conflict – which has led to the deaths of nearly 200 people.
The statements came ahead of today’s day of prayer for the country, announced by Archbishop Tomasz Peta of Astana on Monday.
In his message to ACN, Bishop José Luis Mumbiela of Almaty, where the protests started and where a state of emergency was declared, stated that “people in Kazakhstan, especially in Almaty, didn’t deserve anything like this”.
The bishop, who is President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan, also said: “Let us try to rebuild the Kazakhstan that we all dream of together with all the people of this country… a country of peace and harmony.”
Speaking about the situation in Almaty itself, Bishop Mumbiela said that “people are gradually returning to a normal life”.
Bishop Adelio Dell’Oro of Karaganda recalled, in a message sent to ACN, the people killed in the violence, especially those from his diocese, “where many people have shed their blood”.
He stated: “Every human life is precious and violence will not lead to a new society, a new world.”
The bishops’ comments follow Monday’s TV address by Archbishop Peta who, announcing today’s day of national prayer, said: “We mourn the victims”.
Asking the priests of Astana archdiocese to celebrate Masses, Archbishop Peta called on people to “pray for victims and peace in our beloved Kazakhstan”.
His words come after Pope Francis spoke about Kazakhstan on Sunday after leading the Angelus in Rome.
The Pope said he hoped that “social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice and the common good”.
Victims of the conflict were killed in clashes between government forces and protestors.
About 10,000 people have been arrested since the unrest which began in early January following a spike in fuel prices.
There were anti-government protests with particular criticism of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stepped down in 2019, but who is perceived as still wielding influence behind the scenes.
Catholics are one percent of Kazakhstan’s 18.7 million population, although Christians as a whole make up more than 25 percent.