By Vatican News staff writer
The Bishops of the Central African Republic, in a message addressed to the faithful at the beginning of the new year, have called for peace, dialogue, and solidarity towards building a country of patriotic citizens.
The message, issued on Sunday, is “meant to be both an echo of the citizens’ cries of suffering and a voice of comfort and hope” in the country which has been strongly affected by intensifying violent clashes and mass displacements in the wake of a contested presidential poll organized in December.
Ten Bishops, including Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa, the President of the Central African Bishops’ Conference (CECA) appended their signatures to the message.
Situation of unrest
The Bishops draw attention to the deteriorating situation of insecurity and fear caused by “coalition armed groups and their political allies, with the multifaceted support of their sponsors.” This has led, they pointed out, to massive displacements of the population, paralysis of economic, health and agricultural activities, and impediments to free movement of persons and goods.
In addition, the Bishops note that the sharp division among the political class and the “lack of patriotism” has left the country at the mercy of “predators and mercenaries” who are well-furnished with arms.
“It is with dismay that we are witnessing a resurgence of looting and destruction of administrative buildings that have barely been rehabilitated, as well as the theft of private property,” the Bishops said. “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.”
Like the paralytic before Jesus
Referring to the story of the paralytic from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 5: 17 – 26), the Bishops likened the situation in the country at the beginning of 2021 to that of the paralytic who, though still alive, was immobile and could not care for himself due to his malady. They note that the evils of anger, manipulation, lies, destruction, violence, among others, were paralyzing the country and preventing it from “promoting the great values of fraternity, justice and peace.”
With this image in mind, the Bishops urged the nation, like the paralytic who needed the help of men and God, to put its faith in Jesus. They added that the friends of the paralytic were only able to overcome the obstacle of the crowded building because of their trust in Jesus. In a similar manner, the Bishops encourage the citizens to trust in the loving-kindness of Jesus and work together in a spirit of solidarity and compassion.
The Bishops note that Jesus’ forgiving and healing words to the paralytic man bring about “liberation, resurrection, human reconstruction and a new life.” This, they point out, is because “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.”
Recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s comparison of the African continent to the traveler who was beaten, stripped and left for dead by bandits (Lk 10: 29 -37) in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Africae munus, the Bishops affirmed that Africa “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.”
Appeals and recommendations
Optimistic that the current crises can be overcome, the Bishops called on the citizens to be inspired by the national motto: “Unity – Dignity – Work” and the principle of “Zo-kwe-zo” (every human being is a person) of the founding father Barthélemy Boganda. These, they hope, would be “a star to guide our authorities, to whom we have entrusted the destiny and sovereignty of our country.”
The Bishops also 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.”
They also reiterated calls for beneficial diplomacy that respects the CAR’s right to terminate agreements with certain States when the country’s sovereignty is threatened, noting that the current situation only profits “predators” and enriches some political leaders. Furthermore, the Bishops called on the nation’s judicial institutions to “effectively live up to its mandate and mission” and end impunity in the country.
Expressing hope in the investigations of the nation’s Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission (CVJRR), the Bishops expressed their desire that it would lead to uncovering truths about the events and tragedies of the nation’s history.
Solidarity and fraternity
The Bishops further enjoined citizens to show proof of their patriotic spirit as its deficiency has been a contributory factor to the current state of the CAR. They noted that tribalism, nepotism, inability to see in each other a brother to love, enmity, greed and the desire to attain power at all cost has led the nation to fall into the hands of “mercenaries and highwaymen.”
“Let us stop harming each other collectively! Let us stop creating divisions that are contrary to the spirit of our motto! 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!”
Reconstruction, the Bishops continued, “is a long-term task that requires determination, patience and participation of all the daughters and sons of our country,” they added. “Stand up! Let us change our mentality, our minds and our hearts to move forward.”