Catholic Bishops reject revenge killings in CAR
Catholic Bishops in the Central African Republic, CAR, have reacted to a call by a group called the League of Defense of the Church, which has called for vengeance for the killing of Priests in the war torn country. The Bishops condemned the call by the group saying the Church in CAR is committed to justice and unity despite the threats and attacks and will not be a party to the perpetration of violence and has distanced itself from the group and would not recognize it as a defence force for the Church.
“We demand respect of the memory of priests, women and men killed in the exercise of their commitment to following Christ. They are worthy and faithful to our church and nation, which has always longed for peace,” said Cardinal Nzapalainga, president of the Central African Republic bishops’ conference.
The group had accused Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui of inaction in the face of the continuous targeting and killing of Priests whereby the government has refused to act.
In a statement in mid-July, the cardinal admitted that the Catholic Church’s commitment to justice and unity, in collaboration with other religious denominations, has exposed the church to all kinds of threats and attacks.
The League of Defense of the Church said the government and the cardinal had failed to act, despite the continuing abuses on the church.
According to the group, the church was regularly attacked and desecrated, although the government maintains the conflict in the Central African Republic is not religious. “Priests and pastors are routinely murdered in full view of everyone,” Francois Nzapakeye, the group’s spokesman said.
Firmin Gbagoua, Vicar General of Bambari Diocese was targeted and killed late June, bringing to three, the number of Priests killed in CAR this year.
Francois noted in his statement that since the start of the violence, no Imam was killed as the target has consistently been Christian clerics. Christians, he noted have go to Church only with protection of the military because they are always the target while Muslims freely went to mosques without fear. “We will avenge the murders of many church leaders and men of God killed in the line of duty,” Francois stressed.
Protestant and Muslim leaders two months ago, blamed the crisis in CAR on the foreigners for their woes saying the foreigners were playing “a Machiavellian game plan” and called on “the general population, and particularly young people, wherever they find themselves, not to be dragged into hatred and violence, and appeal to all our nation’s living forces, as well as political parties, for greater solidarity in overcoming this lasting crisis.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos