Horror in Central African Republic Needs to Wake Us Up

Sorry, but I’m about to rock your pleasant Saturday.

Since I returned from my trip to Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services, I read the news headlines with a new type of intensity. It seems I can no longer sip my dark roast while I flip through the news on my iPad, and then go about my business. Instead, I lap up stories about Africa — the chaos, the violence, and also blessedly sometimes the amazing progress — and I see the faces of the children who posed with me in selfies or the women who hosted us in their neighborhoods.

I remember the smell of the mummified corpses we walked amidst at the Murambi Genocide Memorial Center and the dry heaves and sobs I barely held back as I stood in that spot swearing to myself that I’d use every bit of energy I had to see a type of a tragedy like the Rwandan genocide (which claimed half a million lives in one hundred days) never unfold again.

I ponder my vision of “busyness” and how it’s kept me from giving all I have to follow through on that vow.

And then, I read a story like this one.

Writing for BBC News Africa, Peter Boukaert shares (read at your own risk – this is grisly stuff):

It was an absolutely horrific scene when we arrived at the entrance to the airport in Bangui.

We found a large mob of people, and French soldiers at the scene. The crowd was mutilating two bodies of Muslim men that they had just killed with machetes.

There were probably about a dozen people involved in the mutilation. They were probably members of the anti-balaka Christian militia.

Large crowds of people had gathered, including children.

They cut one man’s genitals off and put them in his mouth.

It really was a scene of absolute horror.

People were filming this on their cell phones and many were laughing. When we left the scene, they said: “Keep on filming, because we’re not yet done.”

If you need more evidence of how bad the situation is, visit this slideshow at your own discretion.

The news account goes on to share the unraveling chaos and misery unfolding the region. And we know from news accounts shared by Catholic Relief Services, that things in nearby South Sudan are equally as bleak.

So what can we do? Seriously, what can one simple housewife in Fresno do to possibly quell the tide of such atrocities half a world away? I wrote to my friends at CRS and asked them this question, and they offered a few concrete actions:

  1. I can donate to CRS’ Central African Republic Emergency Fund. My decision to fast and pray for relief in CAR can be united with a small pledge that will provide greatly needed assistance to the families being served in the region.
  2. I can sign up for emergency and action alerts at Catholics Confront Global Poverty to be kept abreast of ways in which I can provide support.
  3. Hard as it may seem, I can seek out — on a daily basis — news about what is happening and share it via social media in a way that’s not obnoxious, but that invites my friends and loved ones to tune into what’s happening in Africa.

Some of you may read this and think, “Why bother? There is enough need and violence in my own community to keep me busy, and I’m helping there.” This is true, but I honestly don’t think that most of us could imagine the level of the atrocities being perpetrated in CAR. I’m not saying that we avoid our own communities’ needs. I’m simply saying that perhaps we play one less round of Angry Birds or watch one less TV show, or that we buy one less new app for our smartphones and instead give a bit to feed people who are living in desperation.

If you’re still reading this, I ask you to consider sharing it with your loved ones. I ask you to join me in daily prayer for an end to this inhumanity. And I ask you to join me in uniting our prayers to the work being done by Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga to seek an immediate and lasting response to the violence in the region. It’s time to educate ourselves and to realize that we must each wake up and be the change that we desire.

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  • Brian

    In prayerful union

    • Fallulah

      I can tell you what WON’T help…Praying.

  • Maureen Crowley Heil

    Thank you Lisa. My trips to the missions have left me changed in a way that is almost unexplainable to the average American. Yes, we have poverty here. Yes, we have violence here. Yes, we all need to be part of the solution to these problems. But we also need to be aware of the atrocities that for so many around the world have become a part of daily life and, with love in our hearts, DO something. Pray first; become aware. Then, buy one less pizza a month, go through the drive through less. and sacrifice, regularly – to CRS, the Pontifical Mission Societies…the list is endless. Pay attention with the eyes of faith and it WILL change you. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • James Patton

    “There were probably about a dozen people involved in the mutilation. They were probably members of the anti-balaka Christian militia.”

    Lisa, why are Christians doing this? If we could understand the why, maybe the “how” we can help would be clearer.

    • mollysdad

      I suspect that the reason why Christians are doing this is that the Muslims did it to the Christians first, and because the Christians have been forced to the judgement that, either the Christians survive, or the blasphemers do. In the Central African Republic, to be a Muslim is to be a seditionist and a traitor. Having said this, there is no excuse for mutilating a dead enemy. In war, you kill your enemy and seek to change his will. You don’t mutilate him.

      • James Patton

        “Having said this, there is no excuse for mutilating a dead enemy. In war, you kill your enemy and seek to change his will. You don’t mutilate him.”

        Having fought in Gulf War I, there is an understanding about conflict. However, I am not very familiar with those that mutilate the dead and how a peaceful solution could be reached.

      • Howard

        A mercenary has nothing personal against his enemy; he is only fighting because his employer tells him to. When the fighting takes place in your own hometown and is in order to protect your own family, though, it’s different, and there will be a real urge to mutilate the enemy dead — to keep punishing him for what he has done or intended to do. That urge can be overcome by discipline or superhuman charity, but it will be present to be overcome or yielded to.

        And then there’s the “message” aspect — the reason Europeans displayed the heads of traitors (real or suspected) on pikes, for example. You say that in war you “seek to change his will”; well, sometimes (as with the heads on pikes) the idea is to change the will of those still living. Even setting morality aside, this is probably a bad idea, but a common and understandable one.

    • Howard

      I assume you mean by this, “What is the provocation?” I hope you did NOT mean, “Oh my heavens! How beastly of them! I know I could endure any atrocity visited upon myself and my family — I would only forgive and pray for my persecutors and wait for the angels to take me to Heaven. Don’t I endure the persecution of my co-workers even now?” I suspect the mutilations were a perfectly natural reaction. A supernatural reaction would of course be better, but most of us are not that saintly.

      • James Patton

        “I suspect the mutilations were a perfectly natural reaction.”

        What a bizarre response.

        • Howard

          Not really. You can look at history to see how people typically treat the enemy dead. It’s not pretty. It tended to run from denying them burial, to specifically mutilating them, to taking trophies (scalps for the American Indians, ears for the Kachin, heads by just about everybody), to cannibalism. Trophies and cannibalism are definitely culture-specific, but the first two (non-burial and mutilation) are almost universal.

          • James Patton

            You are taught that this is a normal Christian reaction?

          • Howard

            Are you taught that the Sioux (at the time they took scalps) and Kachin (in WW2) are “normal Christians”?

            I’m talking about the species H. sapiens.

          • Wh

            Howard, it appears that you are somehow try to explain the mutilations as a normal human act (though unsaintly) considering the environment. How is this ‘terrorism’ different than the mainstream ‘terrorism’? And if it is not, are we also going to somehow justify global terrorism as normal unsaintly human behaviour? Whats wrong is wrong, period.

          • Howard

            You seem to be conflating “explain” with “justify”. Those are two different words with very different meanings.

            Of course, the most mainstream terrorism of all was the terrorism that threatened the nuclear annihilation of hundreds of millions of civilians. (I use the past tense with some reservation. The situation has changed somewhat since the end of the Cold War, but then again the bombs are still there.) That was so mainstream it probably is not at all what you had in mind.

            But yes: the escalation of violence is the “natural” state of fallen man. Sheesh! You folks really don’t get it that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a RESTRAINT on what we would do when left to our own. The character Jim Malone in THE UNTOUCHABLES spoke for mankind when he said, “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” The popular Japanese story THE 47 RONIN displays the same human tendency.

            Have you never performed a real examination of conscience? Are you really unaware of your own capacity for evil? It is much greater in all of us than we would like to think, which is why we are always shocked when individuals and groups who “should have known better” do something terrible. If you haven’t seen it in yourself, you should at least see it in history.

  • justin

    Pray most especially for Catholics in the region. The mutilations are overkill,i mean, its one thing for Christians to defend their homes and families and even to kill in self defense of these but not to mutilate the bodies of the enemies. As for the anti-Muslim militias, well, they wouldn’t exist if Muslims didn’t murder, rape, burn and mutilate so many Christians. The real solution to this problem is the social reign of Christ the King, the conversion of every Muslim in the nation to Catholicism and for the social doctrine of the Church to penetrate every corner of society.

    • Howard

      So, the real solution is for Christ to return in glory. No doubt, but that’s something beyond our control.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    The sad thing is you went to Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services.

    I hate to rock your world but 75% of the money CRS gives to it’s partners go to PRO-BABY IN THE WOMB MURDERING and pro-contraception groups.

    You report on a truly horrific situation in Rwanda……..but what about the countless millions of dollars that Catholic Relief Services gives to pro-abortion groups.

    I will gladly join you in prayer and action to help the people of Rwanda……will you join those who pray Catholic Relief Services stops giving millions of dollars to groups that kill babies by abortion.

    • lisahendey

      Maggie, thank you for taking the time to read my article and also for taking the time to comment. I know that you’ve likely read this, but I wanted to share CRS’ response to your allegations at http://newswire.crs.org/crs-upholds-catholic-teaching-and-values-3/ and to point out the fact that our Bishops have additionally issued a message of adamant support for CRS at http://newswire.crs.org/bishops-endorse-crs-work-for-poorest-most-vulnerable/

      Let us pray together for the sanctity of all human life and for an end to all killing. Again, thank you for visiting my blog.

      • Maggie Sullivan

        Thank you for responding, I spoke with CRS spokesman John Rivera on the phone last year and he admitted CRS does partner with organizations that support and promote abortion.

        Your last line, “Let us pray together for the sanctity of all human life and for an end to all killing” is our hope.

  • Steven M Schisler

    Although I haven’t been to Rwanda, I have travelled to Africa and have seen first-hand the dismal poverty, the lack of sanitation, the lack of education for agriculture, the serious lack of fresh, potable water. CRS has made incredible yet minor inroads to solve the problems as a whole. But every life changed, every life made better, every small improvement has a person’s and a family’s face behind it. Only when Christ is proclaimed and we by prayer and good stewardship share our resources with the needy, can significant change be made. I’ve prayed for peace in African every day since my return almost 5 years ago, and ask everyone to join me.

  • Lisa, I have to contend. That answer to the question, “What can I do?” seems cynical, in my opinion. CRS says, “Send us some money,” and then “Send our buddies CCGP some money, too.” Is CCGP a Planned Parenthood stalking horse, though?

    And why is your article just a rehash of BBC? What YOU observed is much more important than what some goombah stringer for BBC slaps together.

    Joining in daily prayer — THAT is a good idea, though, especially to back up the Archbishop Nzapalainga.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Prayer is not enough; we must actively participate.

    We can support conception control for the women living in areas where men are simply wild animals impregnating them. We can help them to find their own voices and tell their own stories by joining in activities the empower women in citizen journalism. http://worldpulse.com/pulsewire/about/guide

  • Michelle

    Thank you for this article. I have not been following these stories but will now join my prayers to yours and those of our African brothers and sisters in the CAR.

  • Fetrovsky

    CRS helps promote contraception and abortion. While that is a reality, any support from bishops or other Catholic groups is irrelevant. We cannot cooperate with evil, regardless of what good may be used to promote it. When CRS stops cooperating with pro-contraception, pro-abortion groups, only then it could possibly make sense to cooperate with them.