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Central African Republic (CAR)

 

Central African Republic – Massacre of Alindao – Emergency Help

01.02.2019 in ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, By Mario Bard, By Tobias Lehner, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN

Central African Republic

Death toll from november massacre in Alindao is 80

ACN is funding two aid projects for the local Catholic community as they return to a scene of utter devastation

The number of people who have died as a result of the terrorist attacks, on November 15 last year – in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, diocese of Alindao and on the refugee camp right next to it –, continues to grow. Now, it is estimated that over 80, according to information given to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). What is the reason behind this sudden upsurge in violence against Christians in the south of the Central African Republic? In the report below, the local Church analyzes the situation and explains the consequences of these terrible events.

“The people, who almost all fled into the forest, are now returning, hoping to be able to find a few grains of rice that they can eat and foraging among the ashes for any beans that have been only partially burnt”, says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of Alindao, describing the dramatic scenes in his town. The number of those who have died since the attack has now increased to over 80, including two priests and two Protestant pastors, according to hospital sources.

Even if they live under constant threat of attacks and they are sometimes afraid, the Monks are there to help, and vocations are on the rise!

A local Church source reports that the refugee camp, which once sheltered over 26,000 people and was supervised by the priests of the diocese, has now been totally destroyed. “The old people and the handicapped were simply burned alive, if they were not already shot dead or beheaded”, Bishop Yapaupa added. “In their panic, many parents were forced to leave one or other of their children behind in order to save the others. The attackers simply fired indiscriminately on the people.” Quite apart from the loss of human life, “the fire tore through the reception centre and several of the Church buildings. The cathedral lost its roof. The terrorists stole cars, motorcycles, solar panels, food from the storeroom, money and fuel…”

 

A Country Torn Apart

At the present time, there are over 14 different armed groups scattered across the Central African Republic. The president of the country, Faustin Touadéra, does not have the resources to control the activities of these groups, the remnants of the civil war initiated in 2013. That was dissolved into clashes between the Seleka rebels – an almost entirely Muslim coalition – and the so-called “anti-balaka”, initially a self-defence militia (a contraction of the phrase “anti-balas AK-47”, or “anti-bullet AK-47”) which ultimately degenerated into gangs of animist or nominally ‘Christian’ youths.

The authors of this particular terrorist attack were a Muslim militia, an offshoot of the Seleka, ironically named “Unity and Peace in Central Africa” (UPC). So why have the tensions suddenly increased just here in Alindao?

 

Alindao, “a cow to be milked”

According to the UPC, this was a legitimate act of defence because the Anti-balaka in Alindao had killed two Muslims on 14 and 15 November. However, our source informed us that it was rather the desire to compensate for a lack of means on the part of the UPC, which saw Alindao as “a flourishing commercial centre, and a cow to be milked”. After being expelled from Bambari in October, the UPC was forced to abandon its local commercial support base and the gold and diamond mines it controlled. “The weekly collections extorted from local traders in order to feed their troops,” had led to big protests, and so they had had to go in search of another source of income, “Alindao and its war booty.”

 

The Church as a Target

“Organized and structured as she is, the Catholic Church plays a fundamental role in responding to the local humanitarian crisis”, this African bishop explains. The Church maintains relations with the humanitarian agencies, with the president and the UN mission MINUSCA. At the same time, however, she is an “object of covetousness” and an institution that the men of war would like to bring down. Was this the reason for the inaction of the Mauritanian UN forces during the terrorist attack on Alindao, who, “in this way smoothed the path for the attackers by not fulfilling their mission of protecting the refugee population”? Our source also provided a further piece of information, explaining that “two days before the tragedy, the leader of the UPC was received by the Mauritanian contingent.” The diocese sees this meeting as having been possibly one of “consensual planning”, or outright collusion. The leaders of the three main faith communities in the Central African Republic – Cardinal Nzapalainga, Pastor Guerekoyame Gbangou and Iman Omar Kobine Layama – have called for an investigation by the international community.

 

“We have lost everything, except our faith.”

“We have lost everything, except our faith”, Bishop Yapaupa concludes. “We can still look into the eyes of our enemy and offer him our sincere pardon, without giving way to a spirit of vengeance or fear.”

 

ACN is proposing an emergency aid for the diocese of 60 000 dollars, to help rebuild the community, and also Mass stipends to help the local clergy in this situation of total desolation. You can give on our secure web page.  


 

Central Africa Tuesday’s attack: The number of deaths increase

04.05.2018 in ACN France, ACN International, ACN PRESS, Africa, Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), Emergency Aid, International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau

Photo: Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba

Central Africa Tuesday’s attack:

Number of dead increased

The attack on the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Bangui, the capital of Central Africa, on Tuesday, May 1, reportedly killed more than 20 people, including Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba. Initially, it was already known that 15 parishioners and Father Albert had been killed. Father Albert, who we met during an ACN delegation (it says AED) trip to Central African Republic , asked us for our continual prayers for peace in his country.

 

On May 1st, violence broke out once more in the Central African Republic. In the capital of Bangui, a group of armed men attacked the parish church of Our Lady of Fatima. Sixteen people were killed during the attack, including Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, and around one hundred people were injured. The fighting continued in the afternoon, costing two more Central Africans their lives and resulting in a fire that burned down a mosque.

Central African Republic, November/December 2015: Father Albert Tongoumalé-Baba, St Joseph Mukasa parish priest (on the left) with HE Mons Nzapalainga.

The archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, rushed to return to the Central African Republic today to make a statement about the attack. The people are still suffering from the aftermath of years of conflict and are now afraid that this will bring about another bout of violence.

In a statement released by MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) on May 1st, the member states of the G5 (United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of Central African States, European Union, France and the United States) condemned “without reservation the attacks on the Church of Our Lady of Fatima and the mosque of Lakounga,” pointing out that “the manipulation of religion to serve the interests of criminal groups is not acceptable.” They called upon Central Africans to “resist this manipulation, the goal of which is to drive the country back into the trap of violence and vengeance.”

 

Honouring Father Albert, “a man of peace”

ACN would like to honour the life’s work of Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, the priest of the St. Joseph Mukasa parish in Bangui. Father Albert worked tirelessly for peace in his country and gave shelter to thousands of refugees in his parish. In a short video from an interview ACN held with him in 2016, he says, “Our country has been a country bruised, in distress, since December 2012. Weapons have not yet managed to stop the war, but continue to be heard. … No one has been able to bring peace back to the country. Pray, pray unceasingly for us, as Jesus taught us. Do not despair. May this message be heard by all who love peace.”

Text and Informations: ACN-France

 

EMERGENCY AID:
Aid to the Church in Need will give over 37,000 dollars for the victims of Tuesday’s attack.
Thank you for donating by clicking the button below.
Thank you!

 


 

ACN Project of the Week in Central African Republic

03.05.2018 in ACN BENEFACTORS, ACN Canada, ACN International, ACN PROJECTS, Adapted by Amanda Bridget Griffin, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Religious publications

Central African Republic

Printing thirty thousand copies of the New Testament in Sango

 

The Central African Republic has been a country in crisis since it gained independence in 1960, with one coup after another. Its population has been terrorized by an unending stream of armed groups that although they may have gone by different names, always committed the same crimes: looting houses, burning down villages, abducting innocent people, raping women and girls, and killing. In 2013, a bloody civil war broke-out and large parts of the country have since remained under rebel control until this day. The government has done nothing to intervene, abandoning their people to an awful fate.

 

The only help the general population receives comes from the Church. The Church cares for orphans, the poor and the sick. It runs schools and hospitals and, in its convents, monasteries and missions, provides shelter to refugees whose houses were burned down by rebel groups. Time and again, priests and religious risk their lives to protect defenseless women and children from armed assailants. Priests have been taken hostage and several have been killed. Many more have been threatened at gunpoint (see news from May 2 on FIDES).

Central African Republic, diocese of Bangassou, 14.04.2017
Fr. Yovane Cox and the faithful during procession of the Way of the Cross

Putting the country back together is not only a matter of rebuilding houses and institutions that have been destroyed through the conflict. But first and foremost, the hearts and conscience of the people requires strengthening and renewal.

 

Central African Republic: A baptism in the Bouar Diocese

The country only has hope for a future if hatred is overcome and a new leaf turned over through reconciliation and forgiveness. Believers must also gain a deeper understanding of the Good News of Christ. After all, two thirds of the population may be Christian, but a belief in witchcraft is still deeply rooted in many places and superstition is widespread.

 

The archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, believes that it is essential for the people to have the opportunity to read the Holy Scriptures themselves and to immerse themselves in their message. Translated copies of the Bible into the national language have now sold out and need to be reprinted. The cardinal considers this one of the most pressing projects of all.

 

ACN would like to help by giving $56,000 to print 30,000 copies, in Sango, of the New Testament for the people of the Central African Republic.

 

 

 

 

Please click to support a similar project!

 


 

Central African Republic – The forgotten war in the heart of Africa

13.03.2018 in ACN International, Africa, Africa, Aid to the Church in Need Canada, By Maria Lozano, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Julie Bourbeau, War

Central African Republic:

“we were obliged to bury many people of all different religions”

 

The present situation in the Central African Republic, following five years of war and violence, is a profoundly distressing one. Speaking to the 37th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Bishop Juan José Aguirre-Muñoz of Bangassou described the country as a “failed state.” Ever since the arrival of the fundamentalist Islamic Seleka group in 2013, the country has been “without an army, without police, without a judicial system,” he said. The total absence of the state was demonstrated, he added, in the complete absence of any reaction on the part of the state in the face of the present and continuing threat of an attack on the city of Bangassou, in the southeastern part of the country, the city where he himself has been bishop for the past 17 years.

 

Bishop Aguirre was invited to Geneva on Wednesday, March 7, by the international Catholic charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to speak at an event devoted to the religious minorities in armed conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. In his intervention the Spanish bishop, who is 63 years old and has been working for 38 years as a missionary in the Central African Republic, pleaded for better “control and security on the borders” of the country, since at the present time they were being freely crossed by “criminals of every kind, who are sacking, destroying and laying waste to” the country, which was effectively “in the hands of mercenaries.” And he appealed at the same time for action against the sale of arms.

 

The origins of the crisis are economic

The CAR currently holds the unenviable distinction of being in the very last place in the world on the UN’s Human Development Index. The list of its woes is a long one, the bishop explained:

“The people are tired, abandoned, left to themselves. Entire neighbourhoods have been razed to the ground because the Muslim mercenaries have used fire as a weapon of war. Almost a million refugees are currently sheltering in the Congo. Over half the population is in need of food aid, and infant mortality has increased considerably as a result of the war and violence. The educational system has not been functioning for years, and the health system is non-existent. Our medical centre in the north of the diocese has been destroyed, along with our mission. Now nothing is left but the foundations.”

In the face of these overwhelming difficulties, Bishop Aguirre appealed to ACN: “We need your prayers, that the Lord may help us to discern the path we should take in order to be able to emerge from the crisis we are in,” he said.

 

Bishop Juan Jose Aguirre in Bangassou and Auxiliary Bishop Jesus Ruiz Molina

The forgotten war in the heart of Africa

The bishop, who is a Comboni missionary, called on all those involved in the communications media to tell people about this “forgotten war in the heart of Africa.”.And he asked for something more besides: “Please make this forgotten war your own concern too.” At the same time, however, Bishop Aguirre urged people not to see this war as “a religious crisis,” because those who have lived through it right from the beginning know that it is the result of a “purely economic problem, though undoubtedly with religious consequences.” Among other things, the bishop insisted that “the extraction of diamonds, gold, uranium and petroleum, the trade in hardwoods and the complex issue of transhumance” were “the real reasons behind our disputes.” He suspects “interest groups” of being behind the gross manipulation of information, together with the sad revelation that there are commercial interests actually taking advantage of the crisis.

 

The critical situation in regard to interreligious dialogue

For Bishop Aguirre, the hardest and saddest part of the picture is the situation with regard to interreligious dialogue at the present time. “Despite the great efforts that the Christian and Muslim leaders are making throughout the country, the real situation today is a critical one,” he said. Not only because some of these leaders themselves have been attacked or threatened, but also because “the hatred is growing between Muslim and non-Muslim groups, as are the reactions of religious intolerance on both sides.”

Central Africa Republic Bangassou: “During attacks in the Diocese of Bangassou: 30 Muslims died, 20 non-Muslims, two Imams, women and children. We make a common grave. Only inside the pit is peace”.

 

Speaking of the difficult situation faced by his own priests, who for months now have been sheltering hundreds of Muslims in the grounds of the cathedral and at the same time risking their own lives in an effort to mediate with the frenzied and violent groups of the so-called ‘anti-balaka’, the bishop explained, “We have held out the hand of friendship to those who attacked us, because that is what the Church does.” And he sadly acknowledges that “in the midst of so much violence we were obliged to bury many people of all different religions, and so it was there, in a common grave, that they were finally united again. In peace.”

 

Despite everything, Bishop Aguirre is convinced that the only solution is to “continue working for reconciliation, justice, peace and forgiveness, so as to disarm people’s hearts.”

 

Aid to the Church in Need has been helping the people of the Central African Republic ever since the beginning of the crisis. In 2017, ACN supported some 30 separate pastoral aid projects in the country, giving a total of over $ 936.200.


 

Central African Republic – The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

25.01.2018 in ACN Chile, Africa, Aid to refugees, by Loreto Prado, Central Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church in Need, Journey with ACN, Prayer

Central African Republic –
The Church fears a massacre in Bangassou

 

From his place in hiding, together with other priests, Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic, has contacted the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) with an urgent plea for our prayers. “The cathedral in Bangassou is being attacked”, he told us last Friday 19 January. “The situation is quite critical, because this attack had already been foretold, and yet the UN forces in charge of security here paid no attention to what people told them. It seems almost as though they want to see a massacre here in the cathedral, and in the area where the Muslims are being sheltered”, he told us.

 

Already in May 2017 some 2000 Muslims took refuge in the grounds of the diocesan minor seminary of the Catholic Church (around 200 metres from the cathedral), seeking protection. Today a little under 1000 are still sheltering there. “All around this place there are armed men on the prowl, hoping that one of the Muslims will emerge, so that they can kill him”, Father Yovane explained, at the same time speaking of the inhuman conditions in which they are living. “Some of the Muslims try to leave the site to go and look for firewood, while others do so in order to scavenge in the houses that have been abandoned around the area (in search of food they need to survive on)”, he explained. Yesterday, one of these Muslims was caught by the anti-balakas, (the anti-Muslim rebel gang) and murdered him on the spot. This caused great alarm among the Muslims who are still sheltering in the grounds of the Catholic Church. According to Father Yovane, if it had not been for the contingent of Cameroonian soldiers, who intervened, the situation would have been still more critical.

Central African Republic
Muslim refugees next to the Cathedral in Bangassou.

 

The priests in the Catholic mission are watching helplessly, expecting that at any moment the anti-balakas may invade the camp, intending to kill the Muslims who have taken refuge there. And with no one intervening to prevent them. “By the silence of the state authorities and the inaction of the UN forces in not wanting to move the few Muslims still left on this site, they are simply inviting a confrontation between the two groups and a resulting bloodbath. What we are sounding the alarm about and what we are asking them to do is to please relocate them from this site, because it is the only way of saving those still remaining here, who are for the most part women and children”, the Chilean priest told ACN.

 

United Nations: accused of inaction

 

Nine months have now passed since the truce between the antibalakas and the Muslims broke down. This country, already marked by a history of violence and warfare, is today living through one of its most difficult chapters. “We are in a situation in which nobody is in control – neither the government, nor the United Nations nor the local authorities, and still less we ourselves in the Catholic Church” Father Yovane explained, adding that the Church is the only organisation that has remained here to help. “There are no other organisations, most of them have left. The last to do so wasDoctors Without Borders.”

 

When we asked him about the situation of the Christians in the diocese, he explained that “the Christians are for the most part living in hiding in their villages or in the suburbs. They are too frightened to gather in the churches or in the cathedral. When we celebrate Holy Mass on Sundays those who attend number no more than 15 or so. We priests are limited in what we can do and our pastoral work is at a standstill. Some of the clergy are living in the capital and the rest are limited in our activities.” This is due to the deep gulf between the positions of the radical Muslims, who see the Catholic Church as complicit (with the anti-balakas), and the anti-balakas themselves, who see the Church as a traitor for protecting the Muslims and giving them shelter. “There is a mutual incomprehension, a very deep antagonism, and the Church finds herself caught in the middle between them, a perfect target for anybody who has lost control of the situation”, Father Yovane tells us unhappily.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary, before the start of the conflict.

 

Request for prayers

 

At the present time only two of the eight parishes in the diocese are still open and most of the priests are living at the cathedral in Bangassou for their own security. The violence in the region has forced them to close down all the schools of the diocese. “We cannot gather the children in the schools, knowing that it would be immensely difficult to assure their safety in the classrooms”, the Chilean priest explains. For him this has meant postponing his dream of opening a new school in his own parish of Bema, and educating 400 children.

Central African Republic
Father Yovane Cox, a Chilean missionary in the Central African Republic – now in Bangassou.

 

Above all he is calling on us to pray. “We know that our only security is that which comes to us from God and it is in Him that we place our entire lives and our trust”, he tells us. “We are conscious that the Church in the diocese of Bangassou is in the midst of a fight between men, trying to bring a little peace, though her voice is scarcely being heard.” Nevertheless, he still thanks ACN “for being the voice of those whom nobody listens to, the voice of those who have been forgotten…”

 

From 2014 to 2016 the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need supported the Catholic church
in the Central African Republic with 3,9 million dollars. 

Text: Loreto Prado, ACN-Chile
Adaptation: ACN-Canada.

ACN Project of the Week: The Church remains in CAR

23.11.2017 in ACN Canada, ACN International, Africa, Central African Republic, Central African Republic (CAR), Journey with ACN

Central African Republic

The Church remains and provides support

 

Sadly, the Central African Republic has never truly known peace. In the 57 years since it gained independence, this country – one of the poorest in the world – has suffered one military coup after another. It is hard to keep track of all the different armed groups in the country today. Their names may differ but the crimes they commit are the same everywhere they go:  looting, burning, raping, abducting, murdering.

 

Since 2013, the country has effectively been in a state of civil war. Although the situation in Bangui, the capital, is largely stable, the rest of the country is still in the hands of various rebel groups who have since split still further. The government – which even in “normal” times was unable to provide the people with even a minimum of schooling, health care, security, law and order – is now almost totally absent. The civil authorities and the police were often the first to save their own skins in the face of the advancing rebel forces. Only the Church remains.

 

Many Catholic priests and religious have risked their lives trying to protect the defenseless civilian population. Many of them were themselves threatened with guns, a number, abducted, and some of them even murdered. However, to this day they continue to open the doors of their churches and mission stations, providing shelter, regardless of religion or ethnicity, to civilians whose villages and towns have been attacked, costing them everything but the clothes on their backs. The Catholic Church has always been, and continues to be, a constant voice for peace and reconciliation.

Photo Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa in his diocese

Relying on God – looking to the Church

In May and June 2017, the diocese of Alindao in the south of the country was the scene of heavy fighting between warring armed groups. In the town of Alindao itself around 150 people were killed. These people, who even before the conflict were already desperately poor and living from hand to mouth, have now, lost everything. They cannot return to their homes for the time being, for the threat from the rebels is still too serious and the killings and acts of violence persist.

 

The people can only put their trust in God, and they look to the Church for everything, since they can expect practically no help from any other source. “The Church has to provide for everything, since the State has failed,” says Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa sadly. People know that they can count only on God and on the Church. One man commented, “We are hoping the fighting will end soon, so that we can finally return home. Everywhere else, people are being helped, but here no one seems interested in our difficult situation. God is our only protection; that is why we go to Mass every day to ask God to hear us and help us in our situation. Fortunately, the Catholic Church is also there for us. The bishop is on the front line of the efforts to resolve this crisis.”

 

For now though, the bishop needs help to care for these refugees, among whom there are many children. He is counting on the generosity of our benefactors to fill his empty hands, so that he can provide the barest necessities for the 3,000 refugees under his care. We know we are not going to disappoint him, because we are confident of receiving your support and have already given emergency aid of $43,800.

If you would like to contribute to supporting a similar
project funded by ACN, please click to donate!