Since 2013, the Central African Republic has suffered continued military violence, forcing people to flee their homes – more than 1 million have already fled. In December 2020, Aid To The Church In Need sent local journalist and cameraman, Gérard Ouambou, to speak with the priests and religious sisters who are caring for the survivors of this violence and terrorism. However, when he arrived in the town of Bangassou, it became immediately evident that another attack was imminent. Local traders in the central market has shut up their businesses, people had fled their homes into the bush and stored all their goods away safely. All flights were cancelled.
When Ouambou arrived to the UN’s military base of in the country, he found all the town’s political personnel and defence forces – who were supposed to be defending the population from the incoming attack – in hiding. Days after Ouambou left Bangassou, the town was finally captured by the rebel military. 10 days later, Rwandan soldiers reached the town, and there was more violence. In the seven year’s since the bloody massacres of 2013, the town had returned to normal life. Now, reports are that 95% of the country are under the control of these bandit militias. Ouambou says:
“The situation remains tense. The rebels are part of the so-called “guerrilla” groups and are present throughout almost the whole of the country. I live with my family in the capital Bangui. A few days ago they even encircled this city. There were secret agents everywhere, in the various quarters of the town, and there have been numerous abductions and settling of scores.”
In addition to this violence, the Islamist Fulani herdsmen have driven into the heart of the country from Niger via Chad, in order to claim richer pastures for their cattle to graze. In the process, they using violence to advance to the land they desire. The people of the Central African Republic now find themselves undefended and at the mercy of bandit militias. The reason for this continued violence are twofold; greed for the country’s mineral wealth and a battle for political power between the current President Touadera and former president François Bozizé. The latter is forming rebel militias with the help of foreign mercenaries in order to overthrow the government. These bandit militias are occupying areas of the country that are rich in diamonds and gold.
In such geopolitical battle, ordinary people are no more than pawns in a game of chess. The people of the Central African Republic would be left completely defenceless if not for the Catholic Church. Through her position on the Platform for the Religious Confessions of the Central African Republic (PCRC) she has done a great deal for the return and consolidation of peace. Ouambou says:
“The Catholic bishops of the Central African Republic in fact held their annual plenary assembly just recently, from 11 – 17 December 2020. At the end of this conference, in a statement on the current situation, they spoke out against the increasing polarisation of the political classes who have surrendered the country to the looters and mercenaries of every kind, equipped as they are with weapons and sophisticated armoury. They emphasise that the war that has been forced upon us is aiming to undermine the deepest strivings of the Central African people. We are weary and disillusioned with the political calculations, the conflicts and divisions.”
With persecution of Christians rising dramatically across Africa, we are prioritizing our support of the Catholic Church in the continent. We are training 8,309 seminarians across Africa to help equip the Catholic Church to continue to fight back against Islamist terrorism and violence. Our Mass stipends provide a basic income for priests ministering to steadfast Catholics who refuse to be dominated by terror –around 40% of our Mass stipends worldwide went to the continent of Africa last year. You can help us support the Catholic Church in opposing terrorism and violence in the Central African Republic and countries like it. Donate to our pontifical charity and help us to save lives, save souls and save the faith. In your charity, please also pray for the people of the Central African Republic, who are suffering so much.