(Vatican Radio) Following a new wave of violence engulfing the nation, bishops of the Central African Republic (CAR) have launched an appeal to all men and women of goodwill to “staunch the violence that is spreading like wildfire.”
Noting that notwithstanding the accord signed between the government and armed groups on June 19, CAR bishops decry the fact that clashes have not ceased and over 100 people have been killed in the past weeks.
The recent deal, mediated by the Rome-based Catholic Saint Egidio Community was signed by Bangui government leaders and 13 of the 14 armed groups and aimed at ending a 4-year sectarian conflict that has killed thousands of people.
The bishops point out that all those killed – be they defenseless civilians, soldiers fighting on behalf of the government and members of an armed group – are all brothers and sisters of ours”.
They recall that also Caine and Abel were born in the same family and grew up and were educated with the same values, they were not saved from fratricidal violence.
“Is there a way out of the violence?” the bishops ask, “How can we heal an evil-orientated heart?” “How can we take responsibility before criminal acts and destruction?” “How can we build together a society in which no one causes another to suffer?”
According to the bishops “the cries of our brothers and sisters reach the Lord and He is asking us to change our perspective, our behavior and take responsibility for our actions” because welcome and collaboration are the high road towards true dialogue and sincere reconciliation”.
The bishops’ appeal came in a pastoral letter released during their Plenary Assembly which ended on June 25. It spoke also of the pain and frustration of the bishops themselves as they continue to witness the bloodshed of innocent people.
They say they are certain that “hatred and the spirit of revenge will not become an endless spiral of violence if the reciprocal effort is made to view each other as neighbors”.
“In order to overcome religious, political and social differences (…) the parties must disarm their hearts and stop being instruments of death”, overcoming the fear of the other and giving reconstruction and trust a chance, “putting talent and intelligence at the service of reconstruction and not of destruction” they say.
Finally, the bishops ask the people of CAR to “give the Institutions a chance to favor peace and economic development and ask leaders of all the parties involved to overcome ideological divisions and personal interests in the name of common good.
The letter concludes with a “thank you” to the international community and to all those who continue to lend their support in the painful journey towards peace and reconstruction.
The conflict in CAR began when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize, prompting reprisal killings from anti-balaka militias drawn from the Christian minority.
According to the UN the inter-religious and inter-communal conflict has led to between 3000 and 6000 death and displaced more than 450,000 others, majority of whom have fled to neighboring Cameroon.
The armed militia that did not attend the Rome meetings was one of the smaller ones, the “Retour Reclamation et Rehabilitation” or 3R.
A Saint Egidio spokesman added that its absence was due to logistical problems and that the other signatories were confident that they would be able to convince the group to join the pact.