ROME – Armed guerrillas continue to fight each other, terrorizing the Central African Republic.
Some 50 people were reportedly killed on Tuesday in a village some 45 miles from Bangassou, according to the Spanish missionary bishop who is protecting 2,100 displaced Muslims from the Christian militiamen who want to kill them. The bishop has been trying to mediate between the militias.
The rising violence between the Anti-Balakas (composed of mostly Christians and animists), and the predominantly-Muslim Séléka rebels dates to 2013.
Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou, who’s been living in this country for at least two decades, told his brother Miguel Aguirre about the latest attack, which has the entire diocese on alert. According to the message, forwarded by a reliable source to several newspapers in Rome, including Crux, those who attacked the Gambo mission beheaded several people, including children.
Pope Francis referred to the “homicidal violence against the Christian communities” in Central African Republic during his weekly general audience on Wednesday, when he also prayed about Sunday’s attack on a Catholic church in Nigeria.
“I hope that all forms of hatred and violence cease, and that no more such shameful crimes, perpetrated in places where worshipers gather to pray, will be repeated,” he said, before leading the thousands gathered for the audience in praying a Hail Mary.
Aguirre also said that locals have no trust in the United Nations peacekeeping force, called MINUSCA, all of whom are Muslims from Morocco.
Aguirre writes that the anti-Balaka guerrilla arrived in Gambo and kicked the Seleka out during the weekend, but on Monday the MINUSCA entered the area and threw the anti-Balaka out. Upon their return, the Selekas “cut the throats of ten people.”
“What happened in Gambo is very serious and it will impact Bangassou,” the bishop said.
Speaking about his own diocese, Aguierre says that the Muslim young people that are not hiding in the cathedral “are not listening to anyone and they want to fight. They sit in front of the cathedral, so that no one goes through.”
The ones trying to break in are some 400 youth from the anti-Balaka, the Christian militia.
The prelate is currently flanked by three priests, “my Pretorian guard,” but all the others are either in Congo or at the missions spread through the region. Three of the 11 missionary women in his diocese have been taken by the Christian militia, while a fourth is being held by a different guerrilla group. Some of the religious sisters who live in the city are either in Spain, doing their spiritual exercises, or in Congo. Their homes, he says, have been ransacked.
The bishop also regrets the law of the land seems to be that of “an eye for an eye.” Talking to Vatican Insider from a refugee camp for non-Muslim displaced people, he said that if things continue as they are now, “we will all go blind.”
His cathedral, Aguirre told the Italian news site, has been under siege for months. The militias won’t allow for water and food to be taken there.
“We are literally hostages, we are on our knees, terrorized by 400 armed very violent and cruel kids,” he said. “I’ve been witness to many violent acts that I can claim, without doubt, are crimes against humanity. I’ve seen children thrown up in the air and beaten up, with a cruelty that is unbelievable.”
Aguirre ended up taking in 2,100 Muslims, many of them children, on May 13, when the MINUSCA abandoned the city’s Muslim areas, which were “immediately attacked by the Christian militias.” They decided to open the cathedral to avoid a “massacre.”
However, he said that it’s not only the Muslims who are afraid: “Terror here cuts across all lines.”
According to the bishop, half of the city’s population has fled, finding refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the situation is also very unstable. And he reiterated that people aren’t only afraid of the Muslim or Christian militias, but also of the MINUSCA.
“It’s everyone against everyone,” and virtually impossible to determine who’s against whom.
The bishop closes the email to his brother saying “We need your prayers. It’s the force that keeps our hope in this being resolved.”