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Papal encouragement for interreligious peace effort in Central African Republic

Catholic World News - March 27, 2014

Pope Francis met with the leading Catholic prelate, Protestant official, and imam from the Central African Republic, encouraged them to continue their efforts on behalf of peace, and told them that he would discuss the plight of the strife-torn nation with President Barack Obama, according to a Vatican Radio report.

During a recent joint appearance at the United Nations, the three Central African religious leaders warned of the threat of “genocidal war” between the Islamist Séléka forces and the anti-balaka forces that have gained the upper hand in recent months. The nation’s hierarchy has denounced violence on both sides and has insisted that anti-balaka forces are not Christian.

“The violence began nearly a year ago with public anger at a Muslim rebel government that tortured and killed an untold number of mostly Christian civilians during its 10-month rule,” the Associated Press reported. “Ordinary Muslims, who once made up 15% of the country’s population, became targets when the president and former rebel leader went into exile in January.” 118 of the nation’s 375 mosques have been destroyed in recent months, and 20% of the Muslim population has fled the country, according to the Associated Press.

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