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Bishops of Central African Republic urge: do not take revenge against Muslims

Catholic World News - January 14, 2014

As French and African peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic quell the influence of the Islamist Séléka movement, the nation’s bishops urged Christians not to take revenge on Muslims.

An estimated 1,000 people have died since December as members of Anti-balaka, a network of militias often identified as Christian, fight against the Islamist Séléka forces that helped bring Michel Djotodia to power in March.

The bishops denounced atrocities committed by Anti-balaka members and made clear that the movement is not Christian.

Members of the Séléka rebel coalition assumed power in the nation in March and “embarked on months of looting, raping, and killing,” in the words of a December Reuters report. Islamist Séléka members, some of them foreigners, attacked Christian institutions, raising fears of genocide. Djotodia said that he has no control over Séléka, which he officially disbanded.

Under pressure from regional African leaders, Djotodia resigned on January 10 and is now in exile in Benin. The nation’s parliament has appointed an acting president.

“What do we do in this time of crisis?” the bishops said in a January 8 pastoral letter in which they denounced atrocities committed by all sides. “The temptation of revenge is great. Muslims accused rightly or wrongly of being accomplices of Séléka were delivered to the mob and executed without reason. Remember that life is sacred.”

In their pastoral letter, the bishops traced the history of the national crisis, expressed gratitude to the international community for intervening, called for forgiveness and national unity, and offered proposals for the future, so that the Central African Republic might no longer be a place in which killing is “a banal and trivial matter.”

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