In a message addressed to the faithful as a “voice of comfort,” the bishops of the Central African Republic call for peace, dialogue and solidarity.

The prelates urged unity in a country that’s been harmed too often by “external plots with local complicities.”

In their remarks, the prelates drew attention to the deteriorating situation in the country caused by “coalition armed groups and their political allies, with the multifaceted support of their sponsors.”

After a strained peace in 2019 and most of 2020, with only some sprouts of violence, armed groups once again caused havoc after presidential polls held on Dec. 27.

On Monday, a day after the bishops released their message, Central African Republic’s Constitutional Court confirmed the re-election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera in the first round of a presidential election on Dec. 27 with 53.16 percent of the vote.

A coalition of armed groups opposed to the president have been looting administrative buildings, attacking private property and civilians, and forcing people from their homes. According to the United Nations, an estimated 60,000 people fled the country in the last week, twice as many as the week before. Most of the refugees fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The “lack of patriotism” from the country’s political leaders, reads the bishops’ statement, has left the country at the mercy of “predators and mercenaries,” who are well supplied with weapons.

“The misery of the Central African people is unspeakable when populations, in perpetual displacement, are forced to find refuge in inhuman conditions in the forests and when children still have to end their schooling after a poorly managed year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The message was published after the conclusion of the bishops’ general assembly, which took place in Bangui, the country’s capital, Jan. 11-17.

According to the prelates, the evils of anger, manipulation, lies, destruction and violence that have marred the Central African Republic are paralyzing, and preventing the nation from being able to foster “the great values of fraternity, justice and peace.”

“God does not tolerate people holding others captive, God helps those paralyzed by sickness and sin to regain their freedom of movement, to stand up, to take care of themselves and to serve God and humankind,” the bishops write.

Africa as a continent, they added, needs to “meet Christ who heals, raises up and restores the true dignity of all who are bruised” and is in need of “multifaceted support to get up again.”

Speaking with RFI, France’s international radio broadcaster, Bishop Nestor Désiré Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa said the country today lives “at the expense of embittered politicians.”

“I would not say corrupt politicians… but we’re not far from this reality,” he said. “Each seeks to establish their authority, not for the good of the population, nor for the socio-economic development of the nation. Instead, they team up with people of all morals to continue to exploit the country. In all of this, the population is taken hostage.”

Addressing these politicians and armed groups, Nongo Aziagbia appeal on them to not take the Central African Republic as their “private property.”

“We have been living with the military-political crisis for eight years,” he said. “Several proposals for a way out of the crisis, by means of various agreements, have been adopted. But we are stagnating.”

“How many times, dialogues have been held to then have nobody taken their resolutions into account? This is what we need today,” Nongo Aziagbia said.

In their statement, the bishops encouraged citizens to “make use of the Central African genius through honest, organized and courageous work” and called for “a sincere and frank, fraternal and constructive dialogue” towards finding lasting peace and a rejection of “hatred, violence and the spirit of revenge.”

“Let us stop harming each other collectively! Let us stop creating divisions that are contrary to the spirit of our motto [unity, dignity, work]! Let us stop allowing a minority to benefit from our country’s wealth according to their political affiliation or tribal affinities! Let us stop self-destructing! Our country has suffered too much from external plots with local complicities. Let us not forget that ‘coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, working together ensures success.’ Let us be united forever to save our nation!” the statement concludes.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma