Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher
Secretary for Relations with State
on the Situation in the Central African Republic
New York, 2 October 2015
The Holy See, like the rest of the international community, is anxiously monitoring the events currently unfolding in the Central African Republic. I am referring to the clashes between militants of different factions which took place in Bangui, following the killing of a young Muslim on the night of 25-26 September last. These clashes then escalated into violent attacks by the so-called anti-Balaka armed groups on the UN military mission, the MINUSCA.
There have been reports of at least fifty dead, many injured and thousands of people who have had to leave their homes following the clashes. Government buildings have been attacked, an assault was made on a prison and prisoners were released, while the attacks on the headquarters of ONGs working in the country were particularly ferocious.
The latest information indicates that the MINUSCA forces have retaken control of the situation, following fierce fighting, although tensions remain high in the capital.
The Holy See’s concern, which is shared by all who love this country, is that the process of transition, which was slowly bringing the country from chaos to a new beginning, has been compromised. The elections, due to be held next Autumn, should enable the people of the Central African Republic to express, in keeping with diplomatic principles, their will to build a new future and definitively overcome fratricidal conflicts and games of self-interest.
During the transition period we saw a nation, which was exhausted by months of violence, slowly but surely take its destiny in hand. In this it was assisted by a wide regional and international consensus, which translated into practical support for the material and spiritual rebuilding of the country. We cannot allow such a wide and praiseworthy effort, led by the transitional institutions, to be jeopardised by one-sided interests, which are clearly not willing to accept democratic rules and are completely insensitive to the common good.
The conflicts of these days seem to take us back to the conflict between the Muslim Seleka and the anti-Balaka forces who claim to defend Christians and animists, which in the recent past caused much death and destruction in the country.
Once again, unfortunately, we must deplore that people’s religious profession is being singled out and manipulated for political ends. In Central Africa there was no conflict of a religious nature in the recent past, nor is there one today; the fruitful cooperation between religious leaders proves this. The people of this noble nation has always been accustomed to peaceful coexistence. As an example, I can attest that the Archbishop of Bangui, the Most Reverend Dieudonné Nzapalainga, C.S.Sp., on 28 September last, welcomed a group of Muslims fleeing anti-Balaka forces into his residence. The conflicts which recently devastated the country and which seem to have been rekindled in these days are motivated purely by the aim to destabilise, by power games and by the intent to dominate.
This is proven by the attitude of the inhabitants of Bangui, who are dumbfounded by recent events and have not heeded calls to take to the streets and provoke clashes and confusion. It should be clear to all that the population rejects extremism, it has no wish to destabilise the institutions and is tired of violence.
The Holy See hopes and prays that the transitional institutions, led by President Catherine Samba Panza, will be allowed to conclude the phase of preparation for elections, in a climate of dialogue with the various political forces, so as to enable the people of the Central African Republic to decide their own future freely and peacefully.