JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world – and various projects we have helped to bring into being together with ACN benefactors.
This week: Central African Republic
Repair of a vehicle for the diocese of Bambari, following the rebel attacks
The Central African Republic has a population that is mainly Christian and animist, together with a Muslim minority of around 15%. Relations between the various different religious communities have in the past always been peaceful. However, after Muslim President Michel Djodotima came to power through a coup with the help of the overwhelmingly Muslim rebel coalition, on March 24, 2013, the country was terrorized by between 20,000 and 25,000 rebels.
The Seleka flooded into the towns and villages and mainly into the dioceses, parishes and mission stations and helped themselves to whatever they wanted – cars, computers, medical supplies, fuel and food. Some of the dioceses were left without a single vehicle to carry out their pastoral work. What the rebels did not take, they destroyed. They did not even hesitate ransacking centres for the handicapped and orphanages. Everywhere – they plundered, looted, raped, abducted and massacred.
Subsequent to this however, the Central African Republic has risen to become a tragic example of what may happen when one ethnic group within a society – in this case the native Muslim population – is held collectively responsible for the atrocities committed by a small faction among them. For although Christian and Muslim leaders did all they could to prevent the fomenting of hatred between the different religious groups, from autumn 2013 onwards, an opposition movement, opposed to the Seleka, began to form under the name of the “anti-Balaka” (literally meaning, “against the machetes”) – initially to protect the villages, but later growing larger and finally out of control, the group, often falsely labelled by the media as “Christian militia,” engaged in mass attacks of revenge against all Muslims. But the Church has always clearly distanced herself from them. In practice – as Church leaders continue to protest – they are generally mainly animist, or at most “Christian” only in name – which in this context means simply that they are non-Muslims.
The divide: Seleka and anti-Balaka
The situation now of the country is that she has been divided de facto between the Seleka and the anti-Balaka, with the western part largely controlled by the anti-Balaka and the eastern part by the Seleka. Outbreaks of violence are continual, and the situation remains very unstable. However to this day, the situation continues to be at its worst in the border region, midway between the two areas controlled by the two different factions.
This is exactly where the diocese of Bambari is situated. In July 2014, a massacre took place when the rebels of the Seleka group launched an attack on the grounds of the Catholic cathedral, where at least 12,000 refugees were sheltering at the time. More than 20 people were murdered and 20 more, abducted. Great damage was done, as many vehicles belonging to the diocese were set ablaze. This was the tragic culmination of a series of raids and lootings that had already been suffered by the Church in this diocese on a previous occasion when vehicles medical supplies, computers and many other items were stolen. As a result the priests and the other diocesan staff were left quite literally penniless and without any resources to continue with their work.
One of the cars that was stolen had engine problems and broke down on the road. The rebels stole most of the spare parts, before abandoning what was left of it on the road. Now the bishop of Bambari has turned to ACN for help. Getting a car fixed is no easy matter in the Central African Republic because spare parts – like so many other things – are simply unobtainable within the country and have to be imported from abroad.
We are supporting this project with a contribution of $7,100. Would you would like to help support ACN projects of the same type? Contact us. Or donate directly on line.