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Amid violence, tens of thousands flee to churches in Central African Republic

Catholic World News - December 09, 2013

As civil strife in the Central African Republic intensified, “tens of thousands of people” have taken refuge in churches, the Fides news agency reported.

“There are 5,000 people hiding in our parish buildings,” said one parish priest in the northern section of Bangui, the nation’s capital. “All men are shot at if they go outside … Their homes have been looted. They’re mourning their dead. When they arrived in the church, the children were crying. We sang hymns and said prayers and that has helped calm people down. We have never seen anything as bad as this before. We’re at the mercy of God, please pray for us.”

Members of the Séléka rebel coalition assumed power in the nation in March, and Islamist Séléka members, some of them foreigners, have been attacking Christian institutions, raising fears of genocide. The new president, Michel Djotodia, says he cannot control his former allies. Militias loyal to ousted President François Bozizé, along with citizens defending themselves against Séléka, have been fighting back.

The Associated Press reported that 40,000 Christians are seeking refuge at the Catholic mission at Bossangoa, a city of 35,000 in the western part of the nation.

“We are asking Christians to pursue peace and forgiveness, to not seek vengeance or commit reprisal attacks,” said Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui, the nation’s leading prelate.

400 French troops and 2,500 African Union troops are currently trying to keep peace in the nation; the French president pledged to increase the number of French troops to 1,600.

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Dec. 09, 2013 7:17 AM ET USA

    Let's be very clear here: This is yet another case among hundreds where Mohammedan terrorists are threatening to massacre Christians, many of them Catholic in this instance. If I understand Catholic teachings on this matter, those threatened by these thugs have a DUTY to arm themselves if they can and to protect their own families whose lives are in danger. The French troopers cannot and will not stay forever. When they leave, the Mohammedans will slaughter everyone not in their ranks.

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