Islamists terrorising Central Africa’s Christians

By John Newton
CHURCHES and mission stations are being looted, destroyed and pillaged by militia soldiers directly under the Central African Republic’s new government.
Sources in the country told Aid to the Church in Need that a number of Christians have been killed or wounded in attacks by Islamist rebel group Séléka which seized control of the country in March.
Attacks include the pillaging of the Holy Ghost Fathers’ motherhouse by armed gunmen on the night of 25th March and the abduction of Fr Dieu-Béni Banga, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Bangui, and Fr Francis Siki, the Cathedral rector, on Saturday, 27th April.
A statement by Bishop Albert Vanbuel of Kaga Bandoro Diocese described the current situation in the country as “A rebellion by religious extremists with evil intentions, characterised by a deliberate programme of desecration and destruction of religious buildings, especially Christian ones.
“They are targeting Catholic and Protestant churches.”
The bishop, who is also president of the Justice and Peace commission, continued: “Throughout the country, the Catholic Church has paid dearly with many buildings damaged.”
He added: “The elements from Séléka continue to kill each day.”
Many Christians have fled their homes and taken refuge in the countryside, following militia attacks.
Aid to the Church in Need has sent emergency relief totalling £105,000 (€160,000) to four dioceses, for essential supplies including blankets, food, and medicine.
Fr Anastasio Roggero, Missions Procurator of the Carmelites in Italy who has been in the Central African Republic, told Aid to the Church in Need that priests and religious have been targeted by the militants.
Describing attacks on the mission of Baoro and Bouar-Saint’Elia he said: “Sister Lisieux was robbed of her watch and cell phone, and shortly after [she] was again in danger because the ‘new masters’ wanted to take the car in which she was a passenger.
“The poor sister is still in a state of shock.”
Fr Anastasio Roggero also described how at Bour-Yolè mission, an armed soldier climbed over its boundary wall on the night of 26th April and made the superior, Fr Enrico, and Fr Marco and Fr Maurice get down on their knees.
Fr Maurice was beaten and a computer was stolen.
Séléka, which means “alliance” in the local Sango tongue, was formed by the merger of six Islamist rebel groups from Sudan, Chad, Darfur and the Central African Republic.
The rebels stormed the presidential palace in the capital, Bangui, on 24th March 2013, forcing President François Bozizé to flee to Cameroon.
A number of members of the political opposition entered into a governing agreement with Séléka and the militia leader Michel Djotodia was proclaimed the new president.
Internal government documents state that the militia group aim to introduce Shari‘a law and to set up an Islamic republic.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, in his homily during Mass on the third Sunday after Easter, said: “Christ is not abandoning his people in Central Africa”.
He called on the faithful “even in tragic situations to bear true witness like the Apostles to Christ, the victor over fear, hatred, violence and death, and the Lord of trust, love, peace and life.”

Editor’s Notes