Catholic Bishops Lead Mediation Efforts In Central African Republic

Two Catholic bishops have been active in efforts to mediate the continuing conflict between the government and rebel forces.

Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, is at the head of the mediation mission that has convinced some hundreds of rebels to leave Bangassou, the city in the south-east of the Central African Republic, where the most dramatic episodes of violence have occurred in the last few weeks.

Some hundreds of rebels belonging to anti Balaka agreed to leave the city where a thousand people had been forced to flee and find refuge in the mosque, another 1,500 in the church, and 500 in the hospital. In addition, 3,000 people in the city have fled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Comboni bishop Juan José Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou, has risked his life in defending the thousand Muslim faithful who had fled to the mosque. Some militiamen had fired and killed a person next to the Bishop who was uninjured. MINUSCA (UN Mission in Central Africa) has announced that evacuation operations of the faithful who found shelter in the mosque are in progress. At least 100 people have been were killed.

In recent months, roaming militias spurred by ethnic and religious rivalries have stepped up violence despite pledges to take part in a government-led disarmament program.

Central African Republic has been plagued by inter-religious violence since 2013 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.

More than 400,000 people in the former French colony are displaced internally and 2.2 million, or nearly half the population, are reliant on aid.

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