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Catholics under fire in Central African Republic

September 12, 2013 - 9:36 PDT

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MEDIA ADVISORY

For more information, please contact:
Joop Koopman
Joop@acnusa.org
718 609 0939

Central African Republic: More than 3,500 houses burned down in the Diocese of Bouar
Christians are targeted by Islamist forces controlling the country--many perish

NEW YORK, NY (September 12, 2013) - The Islamist rebels who ousted the president of the Central African Republic last spring are becoming "ever more aggressive" in their persecution of Christians, according to an Italian Carmelite missionary based in the country. In the past few days alone, up to 3,500 Christian homes were destroyed in the town of Bohong, which is part of the Diocese of Bouar in the country's north, reported Father Aurelia Gazzera.

"Apocalyptic scenes have been played out," he said, adding that many people have been killed, with their bodies still lying in the streets. Gazzera described the country's deepening crisis in a telephone call with Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic agency helping persecuted Christians around the world.

Fighting between forces loyal to ousted President Francois Bozize and Seleka, an alliance of six Islamist groups, have left the country's infrastructure in shambles, with the UN reporting that one third of the country's population of 4.6 million people needing food, water, healthcare and shelter. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia appointed himself president after the coup last March.

However, while much of the country is suffering from the fighting, Christians are increasingly singled out for attacks by Islamists, who right after the March coup killed at least "several dozen" faithful in the Diocese of Bouhar, including a five-month-old baby, said Gazzera. In July, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of the capital of Bangui spoke in terms of the "worst kind of barbarism."

Since August, 6,500 refugees have arrived in Bozoum where one of the Carmelites' five mission stations is located. Thousands have been hiding out in the bush for fear of the rebels, said Father Gazzera; "they are deeply traumatised and have lost everything."

The missionary, who has been working in the Central African Republic for 20 years, expressed grave concern about the worsening conflict between Muslims and Christians, who until earlier this year enjoyed a good relationship. But the arrival of Muslim rebels from Sudan and Chad, who only speak Arabic, has "destroyed much," he said, adding that "not a single Muslim house was" targeted during the rampage of recent days.

He reported that here have even been numerous cases in which local Muslims have pointed out to the rebels which buildings and facilities they should burn down or loot. "It is as if the coup in March has brought out the worst that is in people's hearts," said Gazzera. "Reconstruction will take years: the reconstruction of buildings, but also--what is even more important - the inner reconstruction of the people. The people feel bitter, but they also bear their burden with great dignity," the missionary said.

For more information, please contact:
Joop Koopman
Joop@acnusa.org
718 609 0939

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Keywords

Central African Republic, persecuted Christians, Islamists

Category

International Archdiocese & Diocese

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