BAMBARI, Central African Republic — Catholic bishops in the Central African Republic have warned that disrupted food and fuel supplies during the war in Ukraine are undermining the quest for peace and stability.
They said the Central African Republic was not becoming economically self-sufficient and, “like the other countries, it is undergoing convulsions from the Ukrainian crisis.”
“Marked by our own experiences of military-political unrest, we consider the war in Ukraine intolerable and call on the two parties in conflict, as well as their allies, to immediately stop the fighting and seek the path of dialogue for an effective peace,” the bishops said in a 10-page message published after their June 20-27 plenary meeting.
The bishops said the involvement of Russian troops in neighboring Rwanda, as well as in helping the CAR’s armed forces “reconquer and pacify” national territory, had placed the country in a “delicate position at the level of international diplomacy.”
They said their government should continue “finding solutions to alleviate suffering,” aided by the discernment and witness of Christians.
“War means human and material destruction, abuse and rape, the violation of human rights, property and places of worship, the instrumentalization of religious beliefs — when one has experienced this, one cannot wish such horror on any people,” the bishops said.
“In our hospitals, there are now fears of an increase in deaths and lack of emergency and sick care,” the bishops said. “To this is added a fuel shortage, which is paralyzing socio-economic life and causing a dizzying rise in the prices of foodstuffs and basic necessities, as well as a shortage of stocks.”
A coalition of armed, primarily Muslim groups launched an insurgency in December 2012 and staged a coup four months later. Coalitions of predominantly Christian fighters formed militias in response. The ongoing conflict has left up to a quarter of the population displaced and 50 percent undernourished, with many facing trouble accessing drinking water, according to a June 29 report by the U.N. Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs.
With much of Africa relying heavily on Ukraine and Russia for staples such as wheat, barley, corn, cooking oil and fertilizer, U.N. officials have warned of possible famine in countries already hit by war, drought, flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bishops’ message said “significant progress” had been made toward a return to peace, but that much of the country remained “in the grip of raging armed groups mistreating the population.” Army soldiers lacked “adequate means and equipment to defend the people,” despite the presence of MINUSCA, a 13,400-strong U.N. stabilization mission.
The bishops also said the church’s synodal process had suggested a “promising future” for interreligious dialogue in their largely Muslim country and encouraged greater sensitivity to the “deep malaise of the weak, small and marginalized.”
However, they added that movement of goods and people remained “severely hampered,” with a food crisis now feared in crowded cities.
“Engulfed at the heart of exacerbating diplomatic and geopolitical tensions, our own country faces a crisis of fundamental moral and civic values,” the bishops’ conference said.