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Bishops criticize "do-nothing' response to African violence

A top official of the U.S. Catholic Conference, the social policy arm of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, has criticized the international community _ including the United States _ for failing to take steps to prevent ongoing violence in Central Africa.

"Despite many significant efforts, the international community has thus far failed in its obligation to help prevent the spread of deadly violence through the region," said Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Newark, N.J.

McCarrick, chairman of the bishops' international policy committee, made his comments in a letter to Susan Rice, assistant U.S. secretary of state for African affairs. The letter was made public Thursday.

The letter was prompted by reports last month of attacks on unarmed refugees in the Republic of Congo. United Nations efforts to investigate the allegations have prompted a standoff between the United Nations and Republic of Congo President Lawrence Kabila.

McCarrick, said the United States should not "directly link vital humanitarian assistance" to Congo cooperation with the U.N. investigation, arguing it would only worsen the condition of the most vulnerable. U.S. policy should focus on fostering negotiations between Kabila and the United Nations, he said.

At the same time, McCarrick warned against the kind of "do-nothing" policy the international community followed in 1994, when it became clear genocide was occurring in Rwanda.

"Today the international community has credible reports from sources "on-the-ground,' which suggest that the unconscionable is occurring yet again, as thousands of innocent civilians are indiscriminately killed in the Congo and Rwanda. The inadequate measures enacted thus far have served only to weaken the international community's credibility in the Great Lakes," McCarrick said.