The celebration of 125 years since the arrival of the first missionaries in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the legislative and presidential elections preoccupied deliberations during the Catholic Bishops’ first meeting in 2020.
The Prelates who concluded their weeklong meeting Sunday, January 12 recognized the celebration of 125 years of Christian evangelization in their country as the particular context of their coming together and expressed their gratitude to God in a collective statement delivered at Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Bangui.
“After 125 years of evangelization, we give thanks to God for his work of salvation in the life of the Central African people through the commitment of men and women of faith,” CAR Bishops stated in their January 12 communique obtained by ACI Africa.
They acknowledged with appreciation those who have shared the Christians faith with the people of God in the country saying, “We pay homage to all the missionaries, religious men and women, lay people, whose witness of faith and dedication has been and still is a model in the building of ecclesial communities.”
The Bishops expressed special honor for those who, in the process of sharing their faith in CAR, “followed Christ on Calvary and bore in their bodies his sufferings as martyrs” saying, “May the grain of wheat, which they have become, bear good fruit in abundance for the greater glory of God and the salvation of our people.”
Cognizant of the legislative and presidential elections slated to take place in December, the Prelates urged the government and those charged with organizing the poll “to respect the constitutional framework for elections” and “organise free and transparent elections within the constitutional deadline, meeting the democratic requirements of a State governed by the rule of law.”
The Bishops have expressed their awareness of citizens’ apprehension ahead of this year’s poll saying, “At the beginning of this election year, the concerns of our fellow citizens are real.”
Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced years of violent conflicts. In 2012, the largely Muslim alliance, Seleka, launched an attack against the government leading to counter-attacks by Anti-Balaka coalitions of Christian fighters.
Legislative and Presidential elections were held in December 2015. However, the Constitutional court annulled the Presidential results, citing irregularities. A second round of elections was held in February 2016 with former Prime Minister, Faustin-Archange Touadéra emerging winner. He was sworn in, in March 2016.
A media report has highlighted the danger of violence ahead of the December poll, particularly if former President Francois Bozizé makes real his threat to vie for Presidency. Bozizé who fled the country in 2013 returned to the country last month.
“Although efforts are being made to reduce violence, we live in a context of insecurity, fear and anxiety,” the Church leaders stated and added, “Despite attempts at disarmament, many heavy and light weapons are still circulating in the country in full view of all.”
The Prelates cited “recent dramatic events” in various locations of the country, including Alindao, Birao, and Amdafock saying the episodes “show that the war contractors have not yet said their last word.”
They probed, “Who benefits from the war business that is flourishing in the Central African Republic?”
While the Church leaders expressed appreciation for “the Government’s efforts to restructure the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and the Central African Armed Forces (FACA),” they challenged those at the helm of leadership in their country to go beyond the military personnel and empower other civil servants.
The leaders queried, “Since the solution to the armed conflict in the Central African Republic is not only military, we ask ourselves: when will we see quality training and the massive integration of teachers, professors, nurses and doctors?”
The Church leaders encouraged Christians to exercise their “civic duties by voting in the upcoming elections, fighting against favouritism, tribalism, intolerance between ethnic and political groups, corruption and the spirit of political manipulation.”
Turning to the youth in their country, the Prelates called for an optimistic view of life saying, “Do not be discouraged by the situation in the country or disoriented by the demons of hatred and the entrepreneurs of violence and destruction.”
“You are called upon to write a constructive story. Be aware of your vital role in the history of your country and of humanity,” the Bishops told the young people of their country.