CAR nuns attacked protecting hosts

Seleka rebels storm mission compound

An Italian missionary priest has recounted how nuns in the Central African Republic sought to protect consecrated hosts in their church over their own safety as rebel forces stormed the building.

Fr Aurelio Gazzera, speaking via Aid to the Church in Need said looting and rape have become commonplace in regions through which retreating Seleka rebels pass as they attempt to reach the border with Chad before the arrival of the now dominant Anti-balaka militia.

It was in one border town, according to Fr Gazzera, that Seleka rebels stormed a Catholic compound and found two European nuns and a lay helper. Rather than flee as the gunmen arrived, the sisters moved to the church where one consumed the hosts from the tabernacle to protect them from desecration.

“One of the rebels who invaded the mission station held his gun to the head of the sister and tried to force her to undress,” Fr Gazzera said. “The other sister and the voluntary helper were also sexually molested.” The missionary added that the rebels tried to abduct one of the nuns before giving up and settling instead for looted property before leaving the compound.

Respecting the wishes of the nuns, Fr Gazzera refused to name them, stressing instead the need for an increased presence of international peacekeepers in the border region to halt the wave of attacks now unfolding.

“Military protection is urgently needed to prevent assaults and massacres,” he said, adding that this was not alone to halt Seleka attacks, but to protect the Muslim community, which is being forced to flee by the savagery of revenge attacks launched by Anti-balaka.

“For a peaceful future, the people must realise that one injustice cannot wipe out another, and that we should not rejoice over the sufferings of others,” Fr Gazzera said.