Archbishop's warning: "Act quickly or the house will burn down"
Catholic and Muslim leaders unite to call for urgent action in Central African Republic.
A delegation of senior Christian and Muslim leaders from the Central African Republic travelled to Europe this week to urge governments to prevent the violence engulfing their country from spiralling further out of control.
Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui – President of CAFOD partner Caritas Central African Republic – and Imam Omar Kabine Layama are asking for a UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians and help restore peace to the country.
The Archbishop said: “If we don’t act quickly the whole house will burn down. Security is our primary concern because aid agencies first need security to be able to work and address the humanitarian needs. And secondly, people won’t go back to farming their fields if they do not feel safe.”
In London, the Archbishop and Imam attended meetings on the humanitarian crisis at CAFOD, and met with Baroness Warsi (Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Foreign Office), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
They described the escalating humanitarian crisis, with 2.2 million people in need of aid but hospitals short of medical supplies, and families fleeting into the bush without food, water or medicine. 100,000 people are sheltering in appalling conditions in the airport of capital Bangui, with thousands more fleeing into neighbouring countries. Churches and Mosques throughout Central African Republic are also providing vital refuge for displaced people.
Archbishop Nzapalainga and Imam Kabine Layama have been travelling around the Central African Republic as part of an inter-faith initiative to promote peace and reconciliation. They insist the causes of the conflict are not religious but the media has used this as a ‘shortcut’ to explaining a complex situation.
The Archbishop said:
“Never before had Muslims and Christians thought that there were problems between them. Even today there are lots of Christians and Muslims that are not involved in the violence and in some places the two communities continue to live together. There are examples of Christians protecting Muslims and Muslims protecting churches. When I speak to ordinary people you don’t hear voices of hatred, only voices of fear who are desperately asking for peace.”
Archbishop Nzapalainga concluded: “I am a Shepherd looking after my flock. I cannot keep quiet as Central Africans of whatever faith are still abused, hurt and killed.”