Msgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, Condemns Attacks on Muslims in CAR

New out from Caritas International and Vatican Radio is a broad-ranging interview conversation with Msgr Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui and Caritas Central African President. In the February 18 discussion, the Archbishop strongly condemns the rising tide of violence:

The Archbishop Dieudonne˙ Nzapalainga and Imam Omour Kobine of Bangui pray together during a tour to spread the word of tolerance and reconciliation at a mosque in the quartier Kilometre 5 in Bangui, Central African Republic on December 11, 2013. Just earlier at a a church, IDPs staying at the camp realised that a truck with food supplies was delivered by the Muslim community as in an act of goodwill and screamed in the local language song ” we would rather die of hunger than eat a gift of food from muslims.” Many also screamed that the food was poisoned. On the morning of Thursday 5th, December Christian anti-balika militants entered the city and attacked Seleka rebels. Over the days that followed hundreds of people were killed. The Seleka made up of a muslim majority with many of the rebels originating from northern Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad brought to power a new president Michel Djotodia, a former Seleka leader in a March 24, 2013 coup. The political establishment has failed to control the armed group that has wreaked havoc, including murdering, looting and burning of villages on the civilian population with mass displacements resulting throughout 2013. A 1600 strong French force deployed to the country is supporting African Union peacekeepers and attempting to disarm the rival Christian and Muslim fighters in the country.

One group has decided to take revenge. They’re mainly young people. They have seen their villages burnt down and plundered. They have seen killings, acts of violence and human rights abuses by Seleka.

Father Adelino distributes the Eucharist or Holy Communion amongst parishioners during an early morning Catholic church service in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2013. CRS and partner organization Caritas has provided immediate food security support to vulnerable households in the Lobaye Prefecture in the south west of CAR. Targeting 1,811 food insecure families, or 10,866 total beneficiaries, vouchers were distributed to vulnerable households which could be exchanged for food items at local markets. The program helps support families and also strengthen the local market structure. Photo by Sam Phelps, CRS

When I met these young people they talk about fighting Seleka. It’s obvious this isn’t what’s happening on the ground. Now these youngsters are striking Muslim communities. They know Muslims aren’t Seleka and Seleka aren’t Muslims. Similarly we have always said Christians aren’t Antibalaka and Antibalaka aren’t Christian. If people are going after Muslims, it’s for plunder,  revenge and  hatred.

These are human feelings. But behind what’s happening are “shady politicians” who are pulling the strings. Some people have claimed to be the godfathers of these groups.

Under no circumstances has any priest or pastor spoken out in favour of directing or supporting this ideology. I roundly condemn the acts of violence. I also condemn the confusion surrounding this situation. Imams, pastors and I speak the same language.  We’ve made a diagnosis from the outset. Today, the religous issue continues to come into play, but we refuse to be led down this path.

Read the full interview here.

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