Central African Republic

Catholic World News

Catholic archbishop aids Muslim refugees in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic, Jun 16, 2014 / 03:53 pm (CNA).- A Catholic archbishop in the violence-ridden Central African Republic recently reached out to a group of 600 Muslim refugees, saying that the love of Christ must drive the faithful to action.

“The flight of Muslims from central Africa is a grave problem. If we do not want them to associate Christians with those who have caused them harm, they need to be helped by Christians,” Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui said. “We have to act quickly if we do not want our coexistence to become merely an illusion.”

In statements to the French daily “La Croix,” Archbishop Nzapalainga referenced his recent visit to 600 Muslims camped at Yaloke, a city located 100 kilometers from the capital of the Central African Republic, Fides News Agency reported.

Since December 2012, the Central African Republic has been torn apart by violence, killing thousands, displacing an estimated 1.1 million persons and leaving millions more without an assurance of food or safety.

The fighting began when Seleka rebels, comprised mostly of Muslim fighters from other countries, began to carry out acts of terrorism and violence, with individuals continuing to loot, rape and murder even after the Seleka disbanded. Then, in September 2013, “anti-balaka” self-defense groups, many comprised of Christians, began to strike back, attacking Muslims in revenge for earlier acts of violence.

In response to the continued violence and conflict that now divides political, tribal, and religious groups in the country, the African Union has deployed 5,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, and the United Nations has also pledged an additional 12,000 troops by the end of 2014.

Archbishop Nzapalainga personally drove his van as part of a convoy of humanitarian aid organized by the Catholic Church to help the 600 refugees at Yaloke. A delegation of religious leaders led by the Iman of Bangui, Oumar Kobine Layama, accompanied him.

Another car in the convoy was driven by Sister Julietta, a South Korean religious from the Congregation of Saint-Paul de Chartres who directs the Our Lady of Fatima Healthcare Center in Bangui. She was accompanied by two nurses.

During his visit, Archbishop Nzapalainga sought to bring calm to the refugees. “I am here with the Iman I welcomed into my home for five months. It’s not enough to say, ‘We have to live together.’ Rather, we must translate these words into concrete actions.”

Upon his departure, the archbishop pledged he would return to visit soon.

“We will not abandon you,” he told them.

Catholic US News

Nigeria has become an anti-Christian ‘bloodbath,’ report claims

Santa Ana, Calif., Jun 6, 2014 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A report released Tuesday by the non-profit Open Doors International places Nigeria at the top of a list of ten countries which are the worst violent persecutors of Christians.

“The alarming increase of violence against Christians in Nigeria over the past months highlights the lack of religious freedom they have and the daily dangers they face from the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and other violent Islamic organizations,” David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, stated June 3. “It is turning into a bloodbath.”

The organization’s World Watch Top 10 Violence List was based on incidents of violent persecution counted between Nov. 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014. According to researchers, the numbers were very minimal and “could be significantly higher.”

Nigeria topped the number of faith-based killings of Christians, with 2,073 martyrdoms; Syria and Central African Republic followed, with 1,479 and 1,115 killings respectively.

The report estimated the average monthly number of Christian martyrdoms at 322 during the time period. 3,641 Christian properties and churches were destroyed, and 13,120 incidents of “other forms of violence” were reported; such incidents included beatings, abductions, rapes, and arrests.

Concerning Nigeria, the World Watch List stated that the terror group Boko Haram “continues to attack Christians on a large scale by burning down and bombing churches and Christian property, and assaulting and kidnapping Christian women and girls.”

Recently, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos called for a global effort to defeat the radical Islamist group, maintaining that it “is faithful to its target of eliminating and destroying Christianity from parts of the country.”

Last month alone, Boko Haram was blamed for two bombings which killed nearly 300 persons, and took credit for the April kidnapping of nearly 300 teenaged schoolgirls.

Syria ranked second on the Top 10 Violence List. Open Doors reported that Christians there are a “considerable minority,” caught in the midst of the country’s more than three year civil war.

“Many churches are damaged or destroyed, in many cases deliberately,” the report stated, adding that Islamists among the rebels have committed such violence as the October, 2013 massacre of 45 citizens of the Christian village of Sadad, where victims were buried in mass graves.

Also near the top of the list were Egypt and Central African Republic. After the administration of Mohammed Morsi fell last summer, sectarian attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt rose to a level Amnesty International called “unprecedented,” culminating in attacks on 80 churches last August.

Meanwhile, Séléka rebels in Central African Republic have “deliberately targeted Christian villages, killed Christians and assaulted women and girls in the North in their quest to Islamize the country,” Open Doors reported.

The country ranked third on the list in anti-Christian killings, but the numbers are “most likely to be underreported” because of “limited access” to sources in parts of the country.

Colombia was featured on the Top 10 Violence List because organized corruption there targets Christians for such activities as political leadership, journalism, and advocacy for human, indigenous, and environmental rights.

“Their Christian conviction leads them to act in ways that threaten vested interests of criminal networks,” Open Doors stated.

The other countries featured on the list were Mexico, Pakistan, India, Kenya, and Iraq.

Open Doors listed “Islamic extremism” as the “major engine” of persecution in seven of the top ten countries, but added that “tribal antagonism and organized corruption” are other “main persecution engines.”

North Korea was omitted from the list “due to an inability to derive sufficiently accurate figures about the reasons for killing Christians in this most secretive society,” said Jan Vermeer, Open Doors’ field worker in the country.

“When it comes to counting the numbers of Christians martyred, it is impossible to get an accurate number for North Korea,” he said, adding that “it is a fact that thousands of Christians are starved, abused and tortured in North Korean’s extensive prison system.”

Open Doors also produced a World Watch List of the 50 countries in which Christians are most persecuted. That list is topped by North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; it differs from the Top 10 Violence List because it considers all forms of persecution, rather than solely violence.

Vatican analyst John Allen, whose book “The Global War on Christians” was published in 2013, told CNA last fall that “martyrdom is very much a feature of the contemporary Christian landscape” and that defending Christians against persecution “deserves to be the world’s number one human rights priority.”

His book reported that 100,000 Christians had been killed in the first decade of the 21st century, 11 new martyrs every hour.

Allen did blame radical forms of Islam for “a fair share of Christian suffering around the world,” but emphasized that other world religions and powers targeted Christians as well.

The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need also published a report on Christian persecution in 2013, title “Persecuted and Forgotten,” detailing how the situation for Christians is worsening in “20 of the 30 countries of greatest concern.” The report added that in most of those countries, Christians have seen a “severe decline” in their livelihood.

The organization’s director of evangelization and outreach told CNA recently that Christians face “many, many challenges” worldwide and that the global persecution “has increased over the last 10 to 15 years.”

Catholic World News

Church Attacked in Central African Republic

Eighteen people were killed on Wednesday when armed men stormed a parish church in Central African Republic’s capital city. The men who attacked Our Lady of Fatima parish Church in Bangui were foreign jihadists, speaking neither French nor the local Sango, according to Fides Agency sources.
Archbishop Dieudonné…

Catholic World News

Church Compound Attacked in Central African Republic

Muslim rebels stormed a Catholic church in the Central African Republic capital on Wednesday, killing up to 30 people including a priest, according to some reports. Fighters broke into the Notre-Dame de Fatima church compound in Bangui, launching grenades and spraying civilians with gunfire. At least five bodies …

Catholic World News

Central African bishop recounts Holy Week kidnapping

Bossangoa, Central African Republic, May 13, 2014 / 04:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Central African bishop who was abducted on Holy Wednesday by Seleka rebels, and on his way to be executed, has called the incident “a great misfortune.”

Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa was in a car with three priests of his diocese on their way to Immaculate Conception parish in Batangafo on April 16.

“Around 5 p.m. we were intercepted by Seleka rebels under the command of a colonel who was in charge in Bossangoa when the rebels occupied the city,” Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia told Fides later that month.

Violence broke out in Central African Republic in December 2012. Seleka rebels, loosely organized groups that drew primarily Muslim fighters from other countries, ousted the president and installed their own leader, Michel Djotodia, in a March 2013 coup.

The Seleka were officially disbanded, but its members continued to commit such crimes as pillaging, looting, rape, and murder.

In September 2013, after 10 months of terrorism at the hands of the Seleka, “anti-balaka” self-defense groups began to form. The anti-balaka picked up momentum in November, and the conflict in the nation took on a sectarian character, as some anti-balaka, many of whom are Christian, began attacking Muslims out of revenge for the Seleka’s acts.

After international pressure and resistance from the anti-balaka, Djotodia stepped down as president in January 2014. Soon after, a national council elected an interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian who has appealed for an end to bloodshed from both sides yet has proven unable to quell the bloodshed.

The nation is now in the midst of continuing conflict among political, tribal, and religious groups – as Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia’s kidnapping attests.

“I was taken to this colonel who accused me of ruining his plan to regain Bossangoa, of having put defamatory statements against him on the Internet,” the bishop recounted. The two “knew each other “quite well,” he told America’s Kevin Clarke, and he had “criticized or condemned the various abuses (the colonel) committed on the population.”

Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia and his three priests were driven toward the Chadian border. At another roadblock, near Kabo, another Seleka commander “did not agree with the order of execution,” the bishop told Fides, and he and his priests were released.

His pectoral cross, mitre, bishop’s ring, and car were seized, but he was able to celebrate Holy Thursday in Batangafo. He was then returned by African Union peacekeepers to Bossangoa on Good Friday via helicopter.

That same Friday, one of his priests, Fr. Christ Forman Wilibona, pastor of Paoua, was killed as he returned to his parish from Chrism Mass.

Bossangoa has seen significant violence since September, when the Seleka began murdering its inhabitants and setting fire to their homes.

Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia remained three months in a siege of his cathedral compound, sheltering more than 40,000 persons there.

In a Dec. 16, 2013 letter, he said his country had become “a shadow of its former self,” calling it “a failed state.” He described how the churches, convents, schools and health care facilities of his diocese had been pillaged, so that rather can continuing its health care, educational, and employment programs it was “managing an emergency situation.”

In that letter he also lamented the then-recent formation of anti-balaka, saying that both they and the Seleka had a “criminal logic” and that Christian and Muslim civilians were being caught in their crossfire.

When he spoke to America magazine after his abduction, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia emphasized that the Church will continue to protest abuses by either side, saying, “the challenge is big, but we will not succumb to evil.”

On April 28, Seleka attacked a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Nanga, 70 miles north of Bossangoa. They killed 22 people, including three Doctors Without Borders aid workers.

In the 18 months of violence in Central African Republic thousands have died, and more than 1.1 million – a quarter of the population – are estimated to have been displaced from their homes. More than 2.2 million are facing food insecurity.

The BBC reports that 70 percent of Central African children are no longer attending school, and some have been recruited as soldiers.

The African Union has deployed 5,000 peacekeepers to the nation, and France has sent 2,000. The U.N. intends to send some 12,000 before the end of the year.

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