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Central African Republic: bishops rebuke new president, demand restitution of stolen property

Catholic World News - May 07, 2013

In a courageous letter to the new president of the Central African Republic, the nation’s leading prelate denounced the crimes of the president’s movement and demanded the restitution of stolen Church property.

Michel Djotodia, the Muslim, Soviet-educated leader of the Seleka rebel movement, became the nation’s president on March 24.

Joined by two bishops of his ecclesiastical province, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui cataloged Seleka’s crimes, including “threats, terror, and psychological torture,” “rape of young girls and women, some of whom have committed suicide,” and “recruitment of child soldiers.”

Noting that Seleka consists “largely of foreign Muslims and some from the nation,” the prelates wrote that “the Muslim population was largely spared looting. What are the real intentions of this movement against our Christian institutions?”

The bishops then listed Seleka’s crimes against Christians, including “desecration of religious buildings and objects,” “looting and ransacking of Catholic Radio Bossangoa and Bambari,” “shots fired at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Bangui at the end of the celebration of Palm Sunday,” and the hindering of the movement of priests and bishops.

“Immediately stop the witch hunt,” the bishops said towards the letter’s conclusion, adding that they would send the president a full list of stolen property, for which they sought restitution.

The nation of 5.1 million is 50% Christian and 15% Muslim; approximately half of the Christians are Catholic. 35% of citizens retain indigenous beliefs.

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