New out today on The Guardian is a strongly worded letter from Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalaing of Bangui and President of Caritas Central African Republic calling us to action to help save lives in Central African Republic. Before I get into sharing his letter –a plea, really — let me share a few facts for those of us (me included) who may not know much about this part of the world.
Central African Republic – The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It borders Chad in the north, Sudan in the northeast, South Sudan in the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo in the south and Cameroon in the west. The CAR covers a land area of about 620,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi) and has an estimated population of about 4.4 million as of 2008. The capital is Bangui. (source: wikipedia)
An October 30th interview between Caritas and Archbishop Nsapalaing paints a critical picture of the situation in his country. I urge you to take three minutes and to read the entire conversation here. In this interview, the Archbishop underscores the critical need the Church plays in this region:
Muslim, Protestant and Catholic national religious leaders work together to defuse tensions and explain that the crisis is political. We also train grassroots mediators to reduce conflict in communalities.
The Catholic Church provides aid to those in need. Caritas gives food and clothes and has provided seeds for replanting.
Today’s piece from The Guardian is an even stronger call to action:
CAR is part of the international community, and this community must not allow citizens to be murdered, tortured and maltreated while standing by and watching with indifference.
My faith allows me the privilege of visiting places others cannot. I try to comfort those who are suffering, to let them know I will not allow them to be forgotten, that their voice can carry and humanity can hear them. We have to act now.
In his writing, the Archbishop underscores the critical need for cooperation between the region’s major religions:
The escalating situation in CAR has led to the imam of Bombari, the president of the Protestant community, and I to form what we have called a platform for peace. We have visited many villages and our message is clear – we want co-existence. Muslims and Christians must learn to live together in peace.
Irrespective of a person’s faith, our group defends everyone, because all humans are sacred. We will not allow rebels to shatter our history of co-existence.
So how can we help? Along with our prayers, please consider supporting Caritas International, which is on the ground in the region. A recent article on the Caritas site underscores the desperate need, but also the potential for a glimmer of hope in the region. You don’t need to speak French to understand the needs presented in this Caritas video:
Our Lady, Queen of Africa, pray for us.