Bishops' plea from the Central African Republic

I don't know much about the Central African Republic, where fighting among local militias has driven nearly a million people from their homes. Like most people, I've pretty much ignored the suffering that's been going on there.

But there is an opportunity find out more in a letter the bishops of the Central African Republic have issued in a call for peace. (Zenit carried it on Jan. 15.) They downplay the religious role in the conflict, fought between what news reports describe as Christian and Muslim militias, and say it is primarily political and military. Concerning Muslims, the bishops say:  

Our faith commits us to be at the heart of the battle for life and the promotion of human dignity. What are we doing with it at this moment of crisis? The temptation to seek vengeance is great. Muslims, rightly or wrongly accused of being accomplices of the seleka, have been delivered up to mob justice and executed without reason. Let us remember that life is sacred: "Thou shalt not kill" (Dt 5:17). Let justice be done according to the principles of the law.

Working together, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Imam Imam Oumar Kobine Layama have tried to defuse the religious tensions. It's a brave mission for peace.

As the bishops point out, everyone is losing right now:

We present a deplorable picture of ourselves and of our country. We seem to be content to destroy what little infrastructure we still have left. The result is devastating. The country is laid low, like the rotten fruit that blankets the soil in our villages, while our people are scattered, wandering through the bush like wild animals. Far from the claims about the cementing of national unity, reinforcing social cohesion and good governance and the just distribution of the national wealth that were bandied about by the seleka coalition, in justification of the seizure of power, the country has instead been plunged into desolation. The roads are no longer maintained, the hospitals are destroyed or left devoid of medication and medical personnel. Those living with HIV AIDS no longer have access to the necessary drugs. The schools no longer exist. Now we are on our way towards a second lost year. Are we even aware of the children of schoolgoing age whom we are sacrificing on the altar of this crisis? The government administration is non-existent, the state employees are on strike and the young are unemployed. There is no sign of progress. There is no longer any guarantee of respect for the individual in his physical integrity and the protection of his goods. Killing has become a routine and anodyne action. We are sinking into a "culture of violence and death".

Above all, let us not delude ourselves. The fratricidal violence is making us still more vulnerable.

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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