Church calls for a day of mourning in CAR
Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga, President of the Episcopal, and Archbishop of Bangui, Central African Republic, on Monday 26 November, called for a “Day of Lamentation and Prayer” for the over 60 people killed on November 15, and “to shed light on the unacceptable and heinous crimes committed against the civilian population,” Nzapalainga said.
The Central African Bishops’ Conference in its extraordinary session held on 24 November, issued a communiqué asking the government to use the December 1, which has been set aside to celebrate the country’s 60th anniversary, rather as a national day of mourning.
“Following the unfortunate and repetitive events that have plunged Central African families into mourning since 2012, the most recent of which are those of Bangui, Bambari, Batangafo and Alindao,” the Bishops also called on churches to use Sunday 2 December for the same occasion and asked that all Advent collections on that day be used to help the victims of the killings.
Narrating the horror of the killings in the region of Alindao in the Central African Republic ravaged by war, Cardinal Nzapalainga said, “I went to see my dead brothers – they were burned like beasts… children, old people – they were burned, burned to a cinder,” he told a gathering of Christian and Muslim dignitaries. “People have lost everything. I saw people scratching at the soil for the remains of torched rice,” added Nzapalainga added.
A internal UN report is said to put the death toll to least 60 killed in the clashes between “Christian” anti-Balaka militiamen and the Muslim Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) militia, but the President National Assembly, Laurent Ngon Baba said “at least 100” people were killed.
“Have we not elected our leaders to defend us? How did we get here?” Cardinal Nzapalainga wanted to know. “What have we done to deserve this? These are the questions the people are asking” the cardinal said.
Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia, Bishop of the western town of Bossangoa, warned that the country is being “pushed towards a religious war.”
Aziagbia accused the UN mission MINUSCA, of either inaction or collusion saying “When the (militia) were setting fires and killing in Batangafo and stealing from the civilian population the Pakistani contingent of MINUSCA contented themselves with merely taking pictures,” the bishop alleged. “Similar witness accounts have reached us from Alindao,” he added, pointing the finger at the “Mauritian contingent,” which he alleged had simply stood by “smiling”.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.