Priests aid Muslims in Central African Republic

Catholic priests in the Central African Republic are reportedly leading efforts to protect vulnerable Muslims from the wave of ethnic cleansing that has gripped the country.

According to reports from Voice of America and Human Rights Watch, as atrocities continue to be visited on the Muslim community by the Anti-balaka movement in the wake of the departure of the Seleka regime, priests have made their parish compounds available in an attempt to shelter fearful Muslims, who, as a community, are engaged in a mass exodus from the south of the country.

In one report, from Voice of America, a Catholic priest, Father Xavier-Arnaud Fagba, is quoted from the town of Boali, where he is now accommodating 500 Muslims: “I didn't have a plan. I was just thinking here are brothers in difficulty. They needed help. I went to get them as a pastor and as a Christian. I did it in the name of my faith.”

Human Rights Watch cites the example of another cleric, in the town of Boda, who “attempted to prevent an attack on the Muslim community”.

Despite the arrival in early December of peacekeeping troops to the Central African Republic to deal initially with the violent rule of Seleka, inter-communal violence has not subsided, with the Anti-balaka faction now blamed for the bulk of attacks on civilians. Thus far, the combined voice of Catholic and Muslim leaders for an end to the slaughter has fallen on deaf ears.

Now, having failed to rein in the worst excesses of Anti-balaka with appeals, President Catherine Samba Panza has warned that she will lead the “war” against the group to curb its activities.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, has described the ongoing situation in CAR as "a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions”.