Central African Republic religious leaders fight for peace

By March 21, 2014

Photo by CBCCentral African Republic (ODM) — Religious leaders in the Central African Republic have had enough of the chaos and violence.

The three top religious leaders of the Central African Republic travel to the United Nations in New York urging the Security Council to act quickly on its recommendations for a UN peacekeeping operation.

Despite a change of president and the arrival of a few thousand peacekeeping troops, the slaughter continues.

The Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, the leader of the Protestant churches, and the Imam of Bangui met with UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon who said, “We want to pass on an essential message: the conflict in the Central African Republic is not about religion.”

Ban describes the three representatives and their hope for a “platform for peace” as a “powerful symbol of their country’s long-standing tradition of peaceful co-existence…. Religious and ethnic affiliations are being manipulated for political purposes,” he said.

Why all the chaos and violence? The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since December 2012, when a coalition of Islamist rebel groups led by Michel Djotodia under the Séléka banner moved through the country to eventually drive out President Francois Bozizé in March 2013.

Djotodia took control of a transitional government, while Séléka elements continued a campaign of looting, rape, and murder, with a particular focus on Christian communities.

A research specialist for Open Doors International, Arne Mulders, explains that “many church leaders we interviewed in the CAR observed that along with the military and political aspects of the political change was the intention to Islamise the country.”

As Séléka influence becomes less and the rebels retreat to the north and neighboring countries, local Muslims perceived as accomplices of Séléka are facing attacks by self-defence militias known as Anti-Balaka.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and 2.2 million are in need of humanitarian aid.

The three religious leaders seek peace for their country and hope to be supported by the UN.

Pray that the UN will promote peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic. Pray for the persecuted Christian communities in need of protection. Pray that the religious leaders will be strong and continue to stand for peace.

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