In March rebel forces, led by Arab-speaking Muslims, seized control of the Central African Republic. Four months on, the landlocked country is living through a reign of terror, largely directed against its Christian minority, with clergy kidnapped, tabernacles profaned and Church hospitals ransacked.
- The Catholic Herald
'Churches have been routinely robbed and pillaged here, while Muslim mosques have been left untouched,' Mgr Cyriaque Gbate Doumalo, secretary-general of the Central African Republic’s Catholic bishops’ conference, told me in an interview. 'Our public institutions aren’t functioning and our hospitals have been ransacked, leaving the sick and destitute without care. This is why we’re urgently seeking help in restoring and maintaining peace.'
The insurgents, calling themselves Seleka (Alliance), launched their offensive last December after accusing President François Bozizé of reneging on promises to share power, and captured the capital, Bangui, on March 26, helped by fighters from Chad and Sudan.
In a letter in May, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the country’s most senior Catholic, condemned the recruitment of child soldiers and rape of girls by Seleka forces, and urged the new self-proclaimed president, Michel Djotodia, to declare 'Seleka’s true intentions' towards Christians.
With little infrastructure left, some observers think Seleka’s fighters and mercenaries are being allowed to live from the spoils of war, and to establish Islam by looting and destroying Christian communities. 'This is a rebellion of religious extremism with evil intentions, characterised by the profanation and programmed destruction of Christian buildings,' the Church’s Justice and Peace Commission noted in a May report.
'We count on the responsibility of the country’s new authorities and their sense of patriotism to see how this crisis is weakening social cohesion, and to bring all perpetrators of crime to justice, with reparation and compensation for victims. It seems Beelzebub, chief of all demons, now inhabits the hearts of certain daughters and sons of this country.'
The assault on the Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest states, has been only the latest in a pattern of Islamist-linked violence.
FULL STORY 'Beezelbub inhabits hearts in this country'