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After several years of political, religious and social instability, the Central African Republic, a country located in the heart of Africa, suffered on November 15 a new upsurge of violence against Christians including the assassination of two more priests, the attack of the episcopal see of Alindao (Diocese of Alindao, located 250 km from Bangui, the capital), the looting and the burning of churches and missions, the persecution of Christians as well as the looting and burning of houses belonging to Christians.

A bit of history to understand this crisis:

“The Central African Republic is a former French colony that was settled as early as 1905 under the name of Ubangi-Shari. The country was an integral part of France, who managed it administratively and economically. Many French companies long exploited the Central African gold and diamond mines until 1960, date on which the country became independent and opted for the name of Central African Republic.

In March 2013, the Seleka, an armed coalition, overthrew President François Bozizé in a coup, setting off a violent crisis in Central African Republic. This coup developed into an outburst of deadly conflicts between self-defense groups and the soldiers of the Seleka.

Caused by decades of cyclical crises and negligence on the part of the international community, the domestic conflict intensified. The vulnerability of Central African Republic in the cross-border regional conflicts and the involvement of foreign fighters have only complicated the situation and underlined the need for a regional solution to the conflict.

The limited participation of local communities in resolving their conflicts is explained both by the legacy of a public sector with insufficient security, and an excessive concentration of powers in the hands of only a few individuals. As a result this has led to kindling intercommunal, often religious and tribal, tensions.”

While insecurity and intercommunal violence are commonplace and as tensions remain high. Political will seemed ready to resolve the conflict, especially since the visit of Pope Francis in 2016. However, it is clear that things have not really changed and instability reigns anew.

It should be noted that the violence of this past weekend was concentrated especially against the episcopal see of Alindao, which served also as a refuge for local Christians. There were more than 26,000 people on site. Among the 37 killed in this group, two were priests, Mgr. Blaise Mada, vicar general of the diocese and Father Célestin Ngoumbango, parish priest of Kongbo, were both brutally murdered (one had his throat cut and the other was burned alive). See the images below. In addition to the assassinations, homes and makeshift shelters were looted, ransacked or burned, according to representatives of the Catholic Church of Central Africa, who firmly condemn these killings and the successive attacks against the civilian population as well as against the religious of the country.

During his weekend address, Pope Francis said: “With sorrow I learned of the massacre that took place two days ago in a camp for displaced people in the Central African Republic, in which two priests were also killed,” said the Pope, touched by the fate of this country he visited in November, 2016. “To this people, so dear to me, where I opened the first Holy Door of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I express my closeness and my love. Let us pray for the dead and the wounded and an end to all violence in this beloved country, which is in such need of peace,” added the Holy Father, before reciting the “Hail Mary,” with the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Let us unite in prayer with Pope Francis so that peace may return in the Central African Republic. May the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all and that a lasting peace may be possible.

Sister Hortense Demia-Mbaïlaou, SP

* Sister Hortense Demia-Mbaïlaou is from Central African Republic.

** As of November 15, 2018, eight religious and several Christians have been murdered in this country.