Pope Francis Prays for troubled Central African Republic
Pope Francis has once more prayed “for the dead and the wounded and for all violence to end in this beloved country,” the Central African Republic (CAR) devastated by war, as the Vatican marked the World Day of the Poor.
The Papal prayer was said on Sunday, 18 November, during Angelus prayers at St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis said he “learned with sadness the news of the massacre two days earlier in a camp for the displaced in the Central African Republic, where two priests were also killed.”
About 40 people were killed and several others wounded when Anti-Balaka “Christian” Militia launched an attack on a Catholic mission centre providing shelter to 20,000 refugees on Thursday 15 November, in Alindao, about 300 km (200 miles) east of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
A United Nations report said the Catholic Mission was set on fire forcing thousands to flee. “We have counted 42 bodies so far, but we are still searching for others. The camp has been burnt to the ground and people fled into the bush and to other IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the city,” Alindao lawmaker Etienne Godenaha told Reuters.
Najat Rochdi, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Central African Republic said, “this vicious cycle of repeated attacks against civilians is unacceptable.”
The war between Christian and Muslim Militia has raged since Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the christian President Francois Bozize in 2013, sparking reappraisals by Christian Anti-Balaka militia groups.
Aid to the Church in Need, an organisation working to help the vulnerable in the region said an Ex-Seleka Muslim militia attacked the cathedral, and killed the Vicar General of the Diocese, Abbe Blaise Mada, and another Priest, Father Celestine Ngoumbango, in a reprisal for the killing of a Muslim by Anti-Balaka.
Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission Minusca, said the Christian Anti-Balaka launched the attack soon after the attack by the Ex-Seleka Muslims and “the UPC responded by attacking a camp for displaced people” in Alindao. “Part of the population fled to the bush. Hundreds of displaced people have found shelter at the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission, (MINUSCA)’s forward operating base” in the region, Monteiro added.
The United Nations said that some 20 000 people were affected by the violence. “Thousands” were forced to flee. Despite controversies and debate about the capability of the UN forces in the region to curb the violence, the UN Security Council on Thursday voted to temporarily renew the mandate of the mission until December.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.