Pope Francis’ visit will give new hope to Central African Republic

Despite the renewed violence in the capital, Bangui, Pope Francis still plans to visit the Central African Republic and hopes to “personally meet and bless each and every Central African” during his trip in November.  Local people are “honored that the Holy Father has chosen the Central African Republic as a destination of his first trip to Africa” declared father Hermann Tanguy Pounekrozou, a Central African priest who has been working with ACS Italy. He said that there was a new a climate of hope among the people, in spite of “sadness and the pain is evident in the population forced to live day by day without being able to think about the future “.

The priest thinks that the recent elections offer little hope for change as the authorities have great difficulty in trying to maintain order and ensure peaceful co-existence in the country. The presidential candidates were trying to gain consensus in exchange for sugar, oil and bicycles. Some of them have in the past even directly or indirectly supported Seleka, the rebel coalition author of the coup of 24 March 2013.

There is a high level  of violent crime in the capital , Bangui, where murders, robberies and kidnappings are commonplace. The city remains divided along sectarian lines. In the capital Bangui The Boy Rabé quarter in the north of the city is occupied by anti-Balaka,  mistakenly called Christian militias, which opposed the Seleka. Muslims live in the south, policed ​​by their militias,in the neighborhood known as “Kilometre 5”. It is impossible for anyone to go into either area after 7pm. The only safe area is the “green zone” in the south east of the city, where there are international bodies.

The advent of Seleka and the subsequent formation of the anti-Balaka have severely impaired inter-religious relations. Yet Fr Hermann believes the current crisis has political and economic causes and is not religious in nature. The Catholic Church led by the Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr. Dieudonné Nzapalainga,has a  commitment to bring back peace and promote interfaith dialogue, supported by some Islamic leaders, like Imam Omar Kobine Layama.

Christine du Coudray, head of the Africa section for ACN thinks the Pope’s future visit will be “sign of hope for a better and more peaceful future”. She added: : “We hope and pray that this hope will not be dashed,” and urged Western powers and aid agencies to “do everything within the realms of possibility to ensure that the country does not descend once more into a spiral of violence and chaos.”