December 14, 2013

​Archbishop: Fighting in Central African Republic is not About Religion

BY
FREDRICK NZWILL
©2013 Religion News Service

Two
French soldiers died as a wave of deadly revenge attacks involving rival
Christian and Muslim groups that have left the Central African Republic in
chaos.

But
a Roman Catholic archbishop said the fighting pitting the two groups is not
about religion, but rather politics and power.

“The
religious leaders warned against this risk” of religious conflict, said Nestor
Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa in a telephone interview. “Political leaders
have not paid attention to these warnings. They wanted to antagonize the
Central African Republic along religious lines in order to remain in power.”

The
former French colony has been trapped in a bloody conflict since March, when
Seleka, a coalition of rebels, overthrew President Francois Bozize, a
Christian, and installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, instead.

In
September, Djotodia disbanded the group, but he has failed to control his
fighters, who have continued to loot, rape and attack non-Muslims, prompting
Christians and others to defend themselves through their own militia.

The
French sent a 1,600-strong force, authorized by the U.N. Security Council, to
disarm rival fighters in Bangui, the capital. The violence has killed at least
465 people since December 5, according to the Red Cross.

“Since
the deterioration of the situation in Bangui last Thursday, it is risky to move
about,” the archbishop said. “The tension is still very high in Bangui and
Bossangoa. If there is no substantial improvement, Christmas celebration will
be different in tone.”

The
diocese is sheltering 50,000 people.

Nongo-Aziagbia
said Muslims have run to mosques, while Christians have fled to churches.

“The
rebels are determined to fight to the last drop of blood,” he said. “What makes
the situation more complex is the fact that there are a lot of guns in
circulation.”

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