This report is contributed by Eva Maria Kolmann of Aid to the Church in Need.
* * *
Renewed violence in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui, beginning last month has already led more than 40,000 people to flee their homes.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) gave reports from local Church representatives saying that people have fled to the premises of churches and monasteries, where thousands of displaced persons have already been living for almost two years.
Another destination is a refugee camp at the city’s international airport. The refugees are in desperate need of assistance, with the officials describing the situation as all the more precarious because numerous humanitarian facilities have been looted. These include facilities run by the local Caritas organization, whose employees are now among the displaced persons.
Christine du Coudray, head of the Africa section for ACN, reported that Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui, president of the Central African Bishops’ Conference and head of the national Caritas organization, visited the refugee camps to distribute food. She described the situation as dramatic.
Over the course of the most recent unrest, more than 40 people have been killed, a church was burned down and numerous facilities looted. In addition, 800 inmates were freed from a prison, including many Islamist rebels. According to Ms. du Coudray, the situation is “very confused” and it is difficult to assess how it will develop further. “More than ever, this country needs our prayers, our help and our attention.” However, upcoming elections and the papal visit planned for the end of November are “a sign of hope for a better and more peaceful future,” she said.
ACN received a communiqué issued by the Apostolic Nunciature in Bangui that announced that the Holy Father still hopes to “personally meet and bless each and every Central African” during his trip scheduled for Nov. 29 and 30. Christine du Coudray said: “We hope and pray that this hope will not be dashed,” adding that Western powers and aid agencies must “do everything within the realms of possibility to ensure that the country does not descend once more into a spiral of violence and chaos.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)