Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada
Translated by Amanda Bridget Griffin
On December 5, 2013, the convent of the Carmes of Bangui, the Capital of Central African Republic, was transformed into a refugee camp when 2,500 people arrived unannounced in search of refuge due to threats by the Seleka Rebel group.
The eleven brothers who dwell in the convent welcomed the people with open arms – though without knowing exactly how they would accommodate so many people. At that time, what they did not know, is that the number would not be 2,500 – but more like 10,000 people that would come to find shelter as the situation unfolded and more attacks would take place on the following December 20.
One year later, today, December 5, 2014, 4,000 of them are still there living in circumstances that are a little calmer, but no less precarious. In remembrance of this sad anniversary, the brothers have decided to celebrate a Holy Mass at 3:30pm with all the refugees. “We will implore the Lord for the gift of a lasting peace, and a true reconciliation for Central Africa. We ask God for the gift of conversion of hearts and minds,” says Father Federico Trinchero, the community’s prior.
But their prayers will also be offered for numerous people: “We will pray for Christians and for Muslims, for the anti-Balaka and for the Seleka; for those among our refugees who we have known and loved and who are now dead; for those of the French Army who have died and in the other African armies and from other countries; for the different humanitarian organizations who have contributed through their work and with the sacrifice of their own lives for the return of peace to Central Africa; for those who govern and for those who will govern this country; for all people who helped us and who are helping us through their prayers, their friendship and their generosity.”
If by the celebration of Christmas 2013 the convent had been transformed into a living Crèche, as a result today, there are numerous children who have been born in this very place. This is why Father Federico adds: “And we give thanks to God for all the children who were born at Camel, and for protecting us from all danger.”
And finally, “this Mass will allow us to pay homage to the thousands of innocent victims who died in this war which has endured for almost two years.”
We invite you to join with us, but especially with them, in their prayers.