Say “no to the evil of violence”, say CAR bishops
Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, President of the Bishops’ Conference, has called on Christians in the Central African Republic not to take revenge for the killing of a priest, Mgr Albert Toungoumale-Baba, from the neighbouring St Mathias Parish, and 24 worshippers in an attack, during a Mass, on May 1, at on Our Lady of Fatima Church, Bangui.
The Cardinal, who said the country has seen enough violence; “coups d’etat, mutinies and repeated rebellions,” added that “We see the result in deaths, scenes of pillage and acts of destruction. But behind these events, I ask myself if there’s also manipulation and instrumentalization, a wish to divide the country and a hidden agenda.”
Gunmen had attacked Our Lady of Fatima Church, opening fire on the 1,500 congregation gathered for the Feast of St Joseph, with guns and grenades. The priest Msgr. Toungoumale-Baba was killed at the pulpit.
Details emerging from Amnesty International report said the violence erupted when security forces attempted to arrest a member of an armed “self-defence” group in the PK5 neighbourhood, dominated by Muslims, and members of the group fired at them,.
“The situation escalated quickly and members of the armed ‘self-defence’ group targeted civilians during a mass at the Notre-Dame de Fatima church,” Amnesty International said.
In a reprisal by Christians, two Senegalese citizens, who got caught up with the crowd, carrying the priest’s body towards the residence of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, were identified as Muslims and were pulled from their vehicle and killed. Amnesty International said. The “large, angry crowd,” was later dispersed after it destroyed the mosque in Bangui’s Lakouanga district.
Nzapalainga called on the government to investigate the killings so as to “throw light” in order to ensure justice was done. “The whole Christian community, not just in our country, has been plunged into mourning, after brothers and sisters who came here for Mass encountered suffering, injury and death instead,” the Cardinal Nzapalainga said “It’s at most difficult moments like this that true heroes arise and find the strength to propose an alternative, saying no to the evil of violence, barbarism and destruction, and choosing the good of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
A statement from the US Press Secretary on Religious Violence in the Central African Republic said “The United States is extremely concerned about recent attacks against civilian centers, including Tuesday’s attack on a Christian church in the Fatima neighborhood of Bangui and the retaliatory attacks on Muslim community members.”
We urge Central African Republic (CAR) government officials to provide safety and security for all of its citizens, regardless of faith… Most importantly, we call on CAR’s citizens to reject incitement to violence and hatred, especially by armed groups looking to exploit the current situation for their own benefit.”
Hassan John is West Africa editor GCN snd Priest of the Anglvian Diocese of Jos