Central African Republic – “World opinion only interested in dead elephants”

Eva-Maria Kolmann, ACN International

Adapted by Robert Lalonde, AED Canada

Montreal, 23 May 2013 – Father Aurelio Gazzera, a missionary in the Central African city of Bozoum and Caritas director for the diocese of Bouar, bemoans the lack of interest shown by world public opinion in the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic. “In the past few weeks the most important news for the mass media with regard to Central Africa is the killing of 26 elephants by poachers. The innumerable dead and injured plus the rapes and lootings arouse little interest by comparison,” the Italian Carmelite monk stressed when talking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). The Central African Republic was, he said, at risk of “being left to its own devices and of becoming a hell on earth.”

A particular cause for concern, according to Gazzera, was the intervention by Chad and Sudan since the majority of the Seleka rebels were foreigners who couldn’t speak the national language Sango but only Arabic. There was no control over the rebels. “Recently the rebels told me: ‘This here is a province of Chad. We’re at war!'”

On top of this there is the growing influence of Islam. Half the new government was made up of Muslims, although these accounted for a mere 15 % of the total population, whereas the proportion of Christians  was 66 %, the missionary claimed. “The victims of the lootings are primarily non-Muslims, and especially the Catholic Church,” Father Gazzera has observed. “This is a cause for concern in a country where the communities have been living peacefully together to date.” The ethnic and mainly religious tensions were intensifying.

Perhaps someone will stop to think and listen to us

Centrafrique-3

The Central African Republic had often suffered coups d’état, the Carmelite Father said sadly. This time, however, the situation was much worse. For two months the lootings, murders, shootings and violence had persisted. The state officials had fled, as had the military and the security forces. Schools and public institutions had remained closed for months. Gazzera: “In view of the 51.4 % illiteracy rate, classes of up to a hundred pupils, a judicial system biased against the poor, politicians who only sought their own advantage and a health service which was only interested in money and not so much the welfare of the sick, I ask myself in the words of the Psalmists: ‘What can the righteous do?’ (Ps 11,3). What is clear is that an immense education effort is required on all levels. And that’s why we don’t intend to leave the country and why we are crying out!”

The Church, and in particular the “voice of courageous Bishops like the Archbishop of Bangui”, were among the few voices who were continuing to stir the conscience of the nation, Father Gazzera claimed. The Central African Republic was a country which “is little known and carries little weight internationally,” he continued.  “If we speak, write and cry out perhaps someone will stop to think and listen to us – and be able to do something! We want to carry on and speak out; we want to work to ensure that such things do not happen again in the future.”

ACN recently granted the Catholic Church in the Central African Republic more emergency relief of $213,000.

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