MUMBAI, India – Women religious in the Central African Republic (CAR) were greeted by the president to mark International Women’s Day on March 14.

Sister Amala Francis of the Society of Daughters of Mary Immaculate told Crux that President Faustin-Archange Touadéra “was surprised” to see Catholic nuns from India doing development work in the CAR.

“Our founder Father J. E. Arul Raj vision is also to fulfill Jesus’s message to go to the whole world and proclaim the good news,” she said.

The nun said rural women from different religions participated in the International Women’s Day event, which took place in the Omnisport facility in Bangui.

“It’s a day marked by the Central African government,” Francis said. “More than 4,000 women participated in this program.”

Touadéra attended the event with his wife, Tina Marguerite.

“It is important to value women, because women are the foundation of the world and without women the world does not exist,” the president said.

“I am happy to support women, for women to be independent in the years that follow. To the women of the Central African Republic, it is time to stand up and show your talents so that the whole world knows that you are capable of launching into the politics of the Central African Republic,” he added.

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The CAR has been going through turmoil over the past decade.

The predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition forced President Francois Bozize out of power in March 2013.

Christian youths subsequently formed a movement of resistance called the anti-Balaka. The Séléka leadership eventually fled the country and sought refuge in Benin.

The landlocked former French colony spans some 240,000 square miles, and has an estimated population of 5.5 million. Despite the presence of raw materials like diamonds, gold, uranium and graphite, the country remains chronically poor, with the World Bank estimating that almost 7 out of 10 people are living on less than $2.15 per day.

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The country’s government currently controls little of the nation’s territory.

In June last year, the bishops made a strong case for a partnership between the state and the Church in the effort to restore peace to the troubled nation.

Noting that peace is priceless, the bishops called for inter-community and socio-economic peace, as well as peace between all political and military entities, adding “all our efforts must converge.”

Nicolas de Rivière, the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations, last month said the former colonial power welcomes the ongoing efforts by the Central African authorities to bolster the authority of the state throughout the territory.

“Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation efforts must be pursued, as must security sector reform,” he told the UN on Feb. 21.

“We condemn violations of humanitarian law and human rights, which have increased by 30 percent compared to the previous period, in particular those carried out by armed groups and Russian mercenaries, and particularly Wagner. These violations, as well as conflict-related sexual violence and attacks on children, must not go unpunished,” de Rivière said.

“The humanitarian situation remains precarious and is likely to deteriorate with the growing number of refugees and asylum-seekers linked to the crisis in Sudan. It is essential to ensure full access to aid. Aid must be commensurate with needs,” he added.