Following continued attacks on churches in the Central African Republic, the country still looks forward to a return to a peaceful and stable society, a priest stationed in the country told Catholic aid workers.
“We hope that the refugees will soon be able to return home, but no end is in sight,” said Father Federico Trinchero in a June 3 interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, adding that peace is “still a long way away.”
Fr. Trinchero is an Italian Carmelite Father and Prior of the Carmelite Monastery in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic.
His comments came after a May 28 attack on the Church of Our Lady of Fatima in Bangui, during which 18 people were killed and more than 40 people were abducted.
Since December 2012, the Central African Republic has been torn apart by violence, killing thousands, displacing an estimated 1.1 million persons and leaving millions more without an assurance of food or safety.
The fighting began when Seleka rebels, comprised mostly of Muslim fighters from other countries, began to carry out acts of terrorism and violence, with individuals continuing to loot, rape and murder even after the Seleka disbanded. Then, in September 2013, “anti-balaka” self-defense groups, many comprised of Christians, began to strike back, attacking Muslims in revenge for earlier acts of violence.
In response to the continued violence and conflict that now divides political, tribal, and religious groups in the country, the African Union has deployed 5,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, and the United Nations has also pledged an additional 12,000 troops by the end of 2014.
Continuing attacks have displaced even more people, adding to the more than 7,000 refugees flocking to the Carmelite Monastery, which is one of the largest refugee camps in Bangui.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, there have been up to 15,000 people taking refuge on the monastery grounds at one time, and 30 babies have been born at the monastery since December 2013 alone.
In the Central African Republic, people are “tired and discouraged” by “the spirit of vengeance” and continued fighting that has taken the country, Fr. Trinchero said.
“The people of the Central African Republic are awaiting a truly political solution,” he stated.
However, the priest was cautious, warning that “the process of reconciliation will take years.”
“The country has undergone a very profound collapse. But I hope that it will be possible to mobilize the vital energies of the young people to enable them to take the future of the country into their own hands,” he said.
“The Church is not looking on passively, but is continuing with its mission. Nevertheless this may trouble many of those who do not love peace.”