The bishops' conference of Africa released a message of solidarity with the people of the Central African Republic, where a rebellion and coup have lately led to serious human rights violations.

"We urge the new authorities of the Central African Republic to assume their responsibility to ensure the safety and protection of the entire population and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid," the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar wrote in a July 13 declaration.

The African bishops' conference met in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week and discussed the theme of the Church as "family of God … in service of reconciliation, justice and peace."

Among the topics discussed was the situation in the Central African Republic, where Séléka rebels ousted the president March 24. The country suffered a war from 2004 to 2007 which sprang up again in December.

It is among the world's poorest countries, with extremely low human development, and major human rights abuses.

The bishops indicated their "shock and outrage" at the "serious human rights violations" in the Central African Republic, as well as the "quasi indifference of the international community."

Their reaction was similar to that of Doctors Without Borders, which said in a July 9 report that the country's health care system has collapsed, with most aid agencies having withdrawn to the capital city, leaving the rest of the country helpless.

The bishops' conference called on international bodies, including the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations to "help end all foreign interference in the country" and to "guarantee emergency humanitarian assistance" to Central Africans.

The bishops themselves have mobilized the Catholic aid agency Caritas to contribute to an appeal for the country, and said they "urge … sister Churches of the world to intensify their solidarity with Caritas and the Church of the Central African Republic in their efforts to help the many victims."

The efforts of the Central African bishops, "in cooperation with the other religious denominations" to assist the country's "battered populations" and to keep the conflict from spreading or "becoming a seemingly religious" struggle were praised by their brother bishops.

The declaration also indicated that the bishops of the Central African Republic have consistently denounced the "abuses and unspeakable sufferings imposed" on the country's people.

The Séléka have plundered the country, looting from families, religious orders and the Church. After seizing power, the constitution was suspended and parliament dissolved.

Aid to the Church in need has provided support to more than 200 projects in the Central African Republic, safeguarding priests, purchasing cars and motorcycles, supporting pastoral work, and promoting the development of infrastructure.

The Central African Republic borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan and South Sudan. Most of the nation's citizens are Christian, though significant minorities practice indigenous religions or Islam.