Archbishop welcomes religious leaders from Central African Republic
Tuesday 28th January 2014Archbishop Justin hails religious delegation’s ‘friendship and cooperation’ against backdrop of escalating violence in the Central African Republic
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby welcomed a high-level delegation of religious leaders from the Central African Republic to Lambeth Palace yesterday to hear about the current crisis in their country, in which one million people have fled their homes.
Archbishop Justin received the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Imam Omar Kabine Layama, who along with the Revd Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou, President of the Alliance of Evangelicals of Central African Republic (CAR), have recently been touring their country to battle sectarian narratives and promote peace and tolerance.
After the meeting Archbishop Justin said: “I’m greatly concerned at the alarming levels of violence in the Central African Republic, and the associated breakdown of the fabric of society. I applaud this inter-religious initiative to address the crisis, which is primarily political and military, and which has left civilians so vulnerable to armed attack.
“The very evident friendship and inter-religious co-operation between religious leaders offers both a notable example and an effective platform for joint advocacy on behalf of the people of the Central African Republic. We are committed to pray for them and to advocate for international support for the stabilisation of their country which if neglected will inevitably have deleterious consequences for the region."
He added: “It is essential that the international community offers every bit of support it can at this critical time – most urgently in protecting civilians from the spiralling violence. In the longer term, support must also be provided for building a nation that has been so long neglected, especially when it comes to developing livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.”
The delegation, whose congregations combined represent 95% of the total CAR population, represents a major inter-religious initiative at a time when the conflict – which is primarily driven by complex economic, social and political factors – has recently seen the escalation of violent attacks on civilians by armed groups, attacks often misrepresented as being religiously motivated.
In early December 2013, violent outbreaks between anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka forces in Bangui led to the deaths of an estimated 1,000 people as groups deliberately targeted civilian communities. There are now fears of reprisals as the country undergoes a leadership transition.
The three religious leaders are currently visiting leaders in Europe to discuss how the international community can work together to prevent the situation from spiralling further out of control.
During the meeting Archbishop Dieudonné said: “We must not only disarm weapons – we must disarm the spirit and the heart.”
Also participating in the meeting on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was Dr Maurice McPartlan of CAFOD, which with other agencies is responding to emergency needs inside the Central African Republic.