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Warring Parties Respond to Pope’s Plea in Half-Dozen Conflicts

October 24, 1986

Undated (AP) _ Governments and guerrillas on three continents - Buddhists, Hindus and Moslems, as well as Christians - have pledged themselves to 24 hours of truce Monday, in observance of Pope John Paul II’s declaration of a global day of peace.

But in most of the world’s dozens of ″small wars,″ the papal appeal will be drowned out in the sound of endless conflict.

″We are fighting to liberate people from injustice. If we stopped fighting for a day, thousands of people would suffer more injustice,″ Paulo Oliveira, a Portugal-based spokesman for Mozambique’s anti-Marxist guerrillas, told The Associated Press in explaining why his movement would ignore the Roman Catholic pontiff’s message.

On Monday, the pope will join more than 140 leaders of the world’s great religions in praying for peace at an ecumenical service in Assisi, the Italian hill town that was home to St. Francis.

The pope first issued his appeal for a day free of political violence when he visited France earlier this month and summoned ″all parties in conflict in the world″ to observe ″at least during the entire day of Oct. 27 a complete truce in the fighting.″

The worldwide Vatican network of papal nuncios, working with national bishops’ councils, quickly spread the word to government and military leaders, and - as best they could - to guerrilla and terrorist groups.

In the Philippines, for example, the 104 bishops sought to transmit copies of a papal letter to representatives of two guerrilla groups - the communist New People’s Army and the Moslem National Liberation Front - scattered across the 7,000-island archipelago.

″It depends on the bishops now, because they’re the ones in the field and they would know how to disseminate the message,″ said Msgr. Feliciano Palma of the Catholic Bishops Conference. There was no immediate response.

Even where warring groups rejected the papal appeal, churchmen readied special liturgical services for Monday’s ″World Day of Prayer for Peace.″

A spokesman for Angola’s U.S.-supported UNITA guerrillas said a Monday truce ″is not possible.″ But the church hierarchy in Angola, half of whose people are Catholic, were organizing prayers-for-peace services across that vast, long-troubled African nation.

A recent AP survey found at least 43 nations currently at war, and by Friday a papal truce appeared possible in a half-dozen:

-The Nicaraguan Democratic Force, the main Contra movement fighting the Sandinista government, said it ″has ordered all combatants to cease fire in position (Monday), with the aim of joining world prayers for peace.″ The Nicaraguan government did not immediately respond to the papal plea.

-In the Indian Ocean island nation of Sri Lanka, both the government, dominated by the Buddhist Sinhalese majority, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist army of Hindu Tamil militants, declared that they would observe a truce Monday.

-The Polisario movement, from its Algerian headquarters, announced its Marxist-led guerrillas would cease fire Monday in its war of independence against Morocco in the Moroccan-controlled territory of Western Sahara. The Moroccan government issued no statement.

-In Lebanon, where 11 years of sectarian-political conflict have taken more than 100,000 lives, Beirut’s Maronite Christian archbishop met with leading Shiite and Sunni clergymen in west Beirut and said the Moslem hierarchy has declared that ″a truce will be observed on all fronts in Lebanon Monday.″ The largest Christian militia said it would abide by the truce.

-Chile’s Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front, a clandestine leftist group that claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of President Augusto Pinochet on Sept. 7, said in telephone calls to news agencies that it would refrain from armed actions Monday.

-The papal nuncio in Bogota, Msgr. Angelo Acerbi, said Thursday the biggest of Colombia’s guerrilla organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, informed him it would abide by the truce. He said he received no immediate response from the Colombian government.

But it was expected that the wars in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Sudan, among others, would grind on Monday.

In the world’s bloodiest conflict, the border war between Iran and Iraq, the papal nuncios in Baghdad and Tehran conveyed the truce appeal to government leaders. But a spokesman for Msgr. Luigi Conti, the Baghdad papal nuncio, sounded pessimistic.

″This is a very complicated issue, and so far we don’t know whether the international peace day will be observed,″ he said.

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