2014-12-02 16:46:00

Central African Republic: A message for advent from the Bishops

(Vatican Radio) The Bishops of Central African Republic (CAR) have issued a pastoral statement in which they have denounced criminality and banditry as an obstacle to peace in the country. The Bishops have affirmed that “The people (of CAR) are being held hostage by armed groups operating in the country.” This is according to a statement by the Catholic news agency, FIDES.

The Bishops say that the people in CAR are not able to continue with their daily activities because of widespread insecurity that has forced many of them to flee their homes and villages in order to seek refuge in makeshift camps, such as in Bangui, Bambari and Batangafo. The pastoral statement makes reference to previous messages that the Bishops have issued in the past when they have denounced the civil war in CAR.

The crisis gripping CAR started in March 2013 when Séléka rebels seized the capital, Bangui. President Bozize fled the country. After Séléka came to power they took to looting state coffers and structures and oppressing the people. Some commentators say the Séléka-led government of Michel Djotodia was worse than that of Bozize. In part, oppression of the largely Christian majority by Séléka led to the formation of the anti-Balaka. The Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga has, however, long insisted that referring to the anti-Balaka as a Christian militia is wrong. The Archbishop insists that the Anti-Balaka militia have nothing to do with a Church or with Christianity.

Although the appalling violence in CAR is often depicted as Christians versus Moslems, the reality is that for many years Christians and Moslems have lived together in relative peace. This is a conflict involving neighbours and communities who have lived together but have now been manipulated by Séléka and anti-Balaka militias.

Séléka and anti-Balaka militias have in the past formally signed several ceasefire agreements and resolved to disband. The reality on the ground, as the advent pastoral statement of the Bishops confirms, is that some of these “former rebels” have now degenerated into criminality and banditry. They no longer pretend to have a cause for which they are fighting. The growth of banditry is worrying the Bishops of CAR.

The Bishops conclude that at the end of the day, true lasting peace is a gift of Christ and that the ideal tool to obtain it is dialogue and constructive confrontation. 

E-mail: engafrica@vatiradio.va

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