YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Catholic bishops in the Central African Republic (CAR) have expressed hope that the country will still rise again, despite “the scars of history.”

In a statement issued June 23, the country’s bishops’ conference – the CECA – spoke about the country’s multi-faceted problems, caused by a lack of patriotism, unequal distribution of the country’s wealth and nepotism, and runaway corruption.

These crimes, the bishops said, have blinded a cross section of the people of the CAR. They said the blindness is made manifest by “the readiness to take up arms to resolve our differences, the unequal sharing of national wealth, nepotism and ethnocentric and regionalist discrimination, the lack of historical awareness and the culture of memory loss.”

“The loss of a sense of patriotism and of the common good, and the lack of genuine political dialogue guided and driven solely by the sovereign interests of the nation, are all clear signs of blindness,” they said.

Referencing to the blind Bartimaeus in the Bible, the prelates said the country’s many woes were akin to “structures of sin” that are preventing the country from progress.

“All these behaviors are akin to structures of sin, hindering our country’s recovery and condemning us to remain Bartimaeus sitting by the side of the road of history,” the bishops said.

They said the country’s recent history had brought the CAR “to the bottom of the abyss. Some believe that the Central African Republic can no longer rise to become the subject and protagonist of its own history.”

The CAR went into violence in 2013 when a Muslim rebel group called Seleka took over the government of the country. Christian youths constituted themselves into another militia group known as the anti-Balaka to fight against the Seleka. The Muslim militia was eventually driven out, but tit-for-tat violence between the two groups continued. Until recently, the CAR government had trouble exercising power outside of the capital Bangui.

However, Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui estimates that nearly 80 percent of the country is now controlled by the government.

In comments to Crux, Nzapalainga said he had worked closely with Muslim leader, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, President of the Higher Islamic Council of the Central African Republic, “to build a sense of understanding amongst Central Africans.”

He said the Church is “committed to building bridges and dismantling the walls of hatred and division.”

The CAR is scheduled to hold local elections in the autumn, a move Ambassador James Kariuki – UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN – said was “critical to strengthening democracy” in the country.

“However, the detention of political opponents threatens the credibility of future elections. And we encourage the full inclusion of women, youth, returnees, IDPs and refugees in elections,” he said on June 27.

“Second, we remain concerned by the activities of armed groups, particularly around border areas, mining regions and ‘transhumance corridors’ who continue to conduct cross-border arms smuggling in violation of the arms embargo, to pursue their military aspirations,” the British UN representative added.

In their latest statement, the bishops used the story of Jesus and Bartimaeus, saying the CAR will rise again by faith.

“Once again, the faith and resilience of the blind Bartimaeus come to the rescue of our despondency,” they said.

“Bartimaeus refuses to remain in his situation. He rejects all fatality. He cries out to Jesus because he believes him capable of bringing him out of the abyss in which he finds himself. His cry of distress resounds in Jesus who, unlike the crowd, stops and orders the beggar to be called,” the statement continued.

The bishops complained that Central Africans don’t show the same kind of compassion Christ showed to Bartimaeus, noting that there still are people in the CAR “whose dignity is scorned and trampled upon,” just like Bartimaeus was treated before Christ called him.

“This is the case, for example, of people living with disabilities, the deaf and dumb, minorities (pygmies), women and children who are victims of violence and abuse, widows and orphans who are dispossessed and mistreated, elderly people left to their own devices, people accused of witchcraft who are victims of mob justice, people exploited in mining sites, especially children, et cetera,” the bishops said.

But when Jesus called – they continued – Bartimaeus had the courage, the will, and the determination to get out of his situation.

“His cry of distress is, according to Pope Francis, the ideal paradigm of the beautiful obstinacy of those who seek grace and who knock at the door of God’s heart,” the CAR bishops said.

It is the same courage that the country’s people have to show if they must change their situation, according to the prelates.

“Despite the ups and downs of our country’s repeated military and political crises, despite the traumas, deep suffering, and indelible scars that mark our history, our people have always been resilient,” the bishops added.

They said the Church has always played a critical role in fostering such resilience “through its commitment to the dignity of the human person.”