, 02 October, 2020 / 9:12 PM
A Bishop in the Central African Republic (CAR) has, in a recent news report, highlighted the impact of insecurity in the country saying the people of God there have been left with a “sense of evangelical fragility and poverty.”
CAR continues to suffer “from prevailing insecurity and has paid a heavy price for the crisis affecting the whole country and whose effects continue to be also felt on the structures and organization of its parishes,” Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia of CAR’s Bossangoa Diocese has been quoted as saying in the September 28 report.
Insecurity in the landlocked country has resulted in looting, vandalism, attacks on pastoral agents and restrictions on pastoral activities, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia says, adding that the attacks leave the people of God in the country with a “sense of evangelical fragility and poverty.”
“We continue to observe with anxiety that some of our Catholic faithful behave in a manner that is not always equal to one’s Christian faith,” the member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) says.
He adds referencing the impact of insecurity to the people of God in CAR, “Some no longer believe in anything or anyone, to the point of leaving their fate in the hands of unscrupulous and unethical people who shamelessly exploit them.”
Amid these challenges, the 50-year-old Prelate who is the President of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) affirms that “the Catholic Church is fully inserted in the general context of socio-political life in the Central African Republic.”
Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced years of violent conflicts. In 2012, the largely Muslim alliance, Seleka, launched an attack against the government leading to counter-attacks by anti-Balaka coalitions of Christian fighters.
The two rebel groups, which control vast regions of the country, faced off again in March 2013 when the Seleka rebels seized the country’s capital, Bangui and staged a coup, a move that was countered by anti-Balaka militias.
The back-and-forth revenge attacks between the two religion-aligned groups backed by other militias introduced a religious angle that was previously absent in the crisis.
In April 2014, the UN Security Council established a peacekeeping force dubbed United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Its tenure to protect civilians and disarm militia groups is expected to end on November 15, 2020.
Despite the February 2019 Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation between the CAR government and 14 rebel groups, the country continues to experience frequent clashes.
Despite insecurity challenges, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia says, the Church in the country “continues to courageously engage in evangelical witness by accompanying the faithful on their spiritual journey.”
“Being a Christian in such circumstances means continuing to keep the lamp of hope burning – the lamp of love, forgiveness and reconciliation,” the Bishop says, and adds, “Faith invites us all to identify signs of hope and to be involved in the positive transformation of our society. We must keep on living in hope, as Saint Paul urges us to do.”
Towards interreligious dialogue, the Platform of Religious Confessions in the Central African Republic (PCRC) is a “place where commitment and solidarity of the Catholic Church are expressed alongside Muslims and Protestant communities for social cohesion, respect of others and universal brotherhood,” the Central African Bishop says.
Ahead of the World Mission Sunday slated for October 18, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia who has been shepherding the people of God in the Diocese of Bossangoa since May 2012 invites the faithful in the country to participate in the various activities that the Church leadership has prepared to mark the missionary month of October.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa