Churches in Central African Republic are caring for thousands of Muslims who have been trapped in a cycle of revenge attacks, perpetrated by a pro-Christian militia, Religious News Service (RNS) reports, reports CISA.
Since December 2013, Anti-Balaka militias have been emptying Muslim quarters and avenging earlier attacks by the Seleka, an Islamist militia.
The Seleka rampaged through the country in early 2013, terrorizing Christians and ransacking churches, hospitals and shops.
Now that the Muslim president Michel Djotodia has stepped down, Seleka is being forced to withdraw from its strongholds, as the center of power shifts, amid a mass exodus and displacement of Muslims.
In Baoro, a town in the northwest, a Roman Catholic parish is caring for more than 2,000 Muslims who cannot flee.
A group of Catholic sisters in the town of Bossemptele is sheltering more than 500 Muslims, providing food, water and medicine.
“Now is the time for the people of good will to stand up and prove the strength and quality of their faith,” Rt Rev Xavier Fagba, a priest in Baoro, told BBC News.
One reason Muslims are able to take shelter in churches is because the country’s religious leaders believe this is a non-religious conflict, said Rev Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbango, president of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in the Central African Republic.
“We have been traveling to the provinces telling people to understand this is not a religious conflict,” said Guerekonyame-Gbango. “This is contributing some tolerance, although many people, including Christians, have taken up arms. This is regrettable.”
Roman Catholic Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of the Bangui Archdiocese has welcomed Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of the country’s Islamic Community, to live with him in the church compound.
“I live alongside him and I ask Christians to do likewise,” Archbishop Nzapalainga said in a statement on February 18 for Caritas, the international relief organization. “Love should be a characteristic of Christians. You can’t call yourself a Christian if you kill your brother. You can’t call yourself a Christian when you hunt him down.”