On November 15, 2018, dozens of people were mercilessly slaughtered in a vicious attack on a Central African Republic Cathedral.
Two priests were among those slain at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart located in Alindao. One of the priests was burned to death. Reuters reported that more than 20,000 refugees that were being housed at this Catholic mission were forced to flee during the assault.
Etienne Godenaha, an Alindao lawmaker stated, “We have counted 42 bodies so far, but we are still searching for others. The camp has been burnt to the ground and people fled into the bush and to other IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the city.”
According to AFB, the name of the priest who was burned to death was not immediately provided. However, the vicar-general of the main cathedral in the country’s capital city of Bangui, Father Mathieu Bondobo, verified, “We found his charred body.”
Pope Francis acknowledged the gruesome attack on November 18, 2018.
“With sorrow I learned of the massacre that took place two days ago in a camp for displaced people in the Central African Republic, in which two priests were also killed,” the pontiff said. “Let us pray for the dead and for the wounded and let us pray that the violence will cease in that beloved country that is in great need of peace.”
United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the Central African Republic, Najat Rochdi, denounced the senseless violence in Alindao. Alindao is viewed as a stronghold for Muslim militia. Sadly, at least two United Nations soldiers and a humanitarian worker were murdered in recent months. Rochdi stated, “This vicious cycle of repeated attacks against civilians is unacceptable. Civilians want security, peace and a future.”
In July of 2018, the vicar general of Bambari Diocese, Father Firmin Gbagoua, was viciously murdered while he was eating dinner. At the time, Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, revealed Father Gbagoua was shot at close range by militia labeling themselves the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic. Concerning the incident, The Central African Bishop’s Conference said, “We strongly call on the government and MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic) to coordinate their efforts so that those responsible for these murders will be arrested and brought to justice.” They inquired, “Who does all this violence against the Catholic Church of Central Africa benefit?”
Numerous violent acts have taken place in the Central African Republic since 2012. This is when multiple bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance and took control of the country. They called themselves Seleka. To combat Seleka’s attacks, some people in the tumultuous country created self defense groups known as anti-balaka. Some of these groups, primarily comprised of Christians, started attacking Muslims out of revenge. The conflict then took on a sectarian character. Reportedly, ex-Seleka forces attacked the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in retaliation for a Muslim who was slain by anti-balaka the previous day. In addition to the murders occurring at the Catholic mission, houses in the neighborhood were also burned and looted.
Multiple Catholic churches in the Central African Republic provide refuge to both Christians and Muslims alike attempting to escape the violence. Approximately 140 miles east of Alindao, several Catholic institutions in the Diocese of Bangassou have opened their doors to displaced Muslims who encounter violence from those involved with anti-balaka. A general election was held in the Central African Republic in 2015-2016. While a new government was installed, militant organizations continue to terrorize local populations. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the struggle. At least an additional million individuals have been displaced.
Sadly, violence against Christians and those who practice other religious faiths occurs far too often around the world. Pray for those who are facing unimaginable persecution in the Central African Republic and other hotspots.
~ 1776 Christian