BY CRISTINA ODONE AND LUCY LETHBRIDGE
Witn.E THE POPE pleaded for aI end to the "catastrophic wave" of violence that is sweeping the central African country of Rwanda this week, Catholic leaders in the UK have urged the the UN to take a higher-profile peacekeeping role in the country.
Dr Ian Linden, Director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CLIP), told the Catholic Herald: "It is vital that the UN presence of 5,000 troops is boosted and given a mandate of more active peacekeeping.
"There is always a desperate need for protected convoys of food aid in the country. The situation will rapidly become desperate for people in south Rwanda who are already in famine conditions and have not had food for a week."
The ethnic and political violence in the Rwandan capital of Kigali has already cost thousands their lives, including 19 nuns and priests who were killed in an attack on a Jesuitrun centre last week whena group of Hutu extremists attacked thcir religious centre in Kigufi. The soldiers, according to a report telephoned to the Jesuit Provincial of Central Africa, Marcel Matungulu Otene, rounded up the foreigners three Belgian Jesuits and a Trappist monk among them and locked them in the dining room. Meanwhile, the Rwandans were sequestered in a small room far from the dining room. In the afternoon the foreigners were released and discovered the bodies.
The victims, all African, included 11 nuns, five secular priests and three Jesuits. The Pope urged Catholics in Rwanda and Burundi to implement "the commandment of fraternal love" in the days following the killings. He repeated an earlier call for an end to ethnic violence in Burundi, where thousands have died in recent months.
News reports said army troops, presidential guards and police, joined by gangs of youths, participated in the bloodletting in Kigali.
The bloodletting between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi groups began after President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his aircraft was shot down last week.
A source in the ministry of defence said the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front appeared unlikely to agree to a ceasefire anywhere outside Kigali. At least six of the 65 British residents in Kigali have fled and rcachcd safety in Zaire. The rest have been urged to seek help from French or Belgian troops.
Seven Irish nationals were among those rescued from Rwanda as part of the Belgian authorities' evacuation. One more Irishman, De La Salle Brother Tom O'Donoghue, is still missing, however.
CAFOD has earmarked £30,000 for food distribution in Rwanda. The . aid programme is being carried out by Caritas Rwanda, the local relief and development arm of the Catholic Church.
CAFOD spokesman Mark Topping said: "Our partners in Rwanda say the massacres are continuing. Thousands of people have fled their homes and need urgent help."
"I feared for my life every moment," said US Missionary Marty Fields after his escape from the strife-torn country.