Over 1,000 Muslims have been hiding inside a Roman Catholic Church at a compound in Bangassou, Central African Republic, fearful that a hostile militia will kill them. While some media reports say the militia is mostly made up of Christians, Catholic sources are disputing that claim.
Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, which has been in contact with the church in Bangassou, told The Christian Post in an email Thursday that numerous media reports that describe the anti-balaka militia group as “Christian” are off the mark.
“To call the anti-balaka a Christian militia, as is often done, is a mistake,” said Maria Lozano, communications manager at Aid to the Church in Need International. “Our partners in the field told us several times that there is not much about them that is Christian. They carry fetishes and amulets for protection. The conflict is between Muslims and non-Muslims, the many followers of traditional religions and non-Christian sects.”
Lozano told CP that Seleka and Muslim rebels from Sudan and Chad have destroyed and attacked the homes of both Christian and Muslim communities.
“The local non-Muslim people created the anti-balaka militia to defend themselves, and they are full of anger after having to endure long months of assaults and violence,” she explained.
Al Jazeera, the Qatari government’s state-sponsored news organization, reported Tuesday that some 1,500 Muslims are being sheltered at the Catholic church compound in Bangassou, fearing they’ll be killed by armed members of the anti-balaka who’ve been battling Seleka rebels in a military conflict that has gripped the country since 2012.
Lozano described the crisis in CAR as an “explosion of madness,” which has led to arbitrary killings and disabled people being left behind.
“Often the anti-balaka have drunk a lot of alcohol and taken drugs, thus [becoming] unpredictable, which has led to more and more violence,” she added, noting that the militia is dangerous for all people.
Recent horror stories include a report Thursday from Doctors Without Borders which found that groups of women have been kidnapped and raped by local armed groups. Survivors of such an attack were taken to Bossangoa hospital last week, where they were being cared for by the charity’s staff.
“The women we saw were coping in many different ways but all were incredibly traumatized. Some were in total shock, while others were paralyzed by fear, or found it very hard to speak about the incident,” said Soulemane-Amoin, the Doctors Without Borders midwife at Bossangoa hospital.
“A number of the women had fresh knife wounds. It was horrible to witness and my heart goes out to them. Our maternity team treated them with dignity, patience and provided them with a safe and confidential space to start processing what had happened.”
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Source: Christian Post