CAR recovering from religious crisis

The Central African Republic (CAR) is gradually recovering from the two-and-a-half-year crisis which ravaged the country, according to its top three religious leaders.

World Watch Monitor spoke with the clerics – Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé-Gbangou (the President of CAR’s Evangelical Alliance), Monsignor Dieudonné Nzapalainga (the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui), and Imam Oumar Kobine Layama (the President of CAR’s Islamic Council) – during their visit to Switzerland last week, where they received the 2015 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize at the UN office in Geneva.

(Sergio Vieira de Mello was the UN’s Special Representative in Iraq, killed when the UN headquarters in Baghdad was bombed in August 2003. Every two years the award goes to an individual, group or organisation that has done something unique to reconcile people and parties in conflict.)

In the midst of the Central African Republic’s two years of violence, often portrayed as a religious conflict, the clerics formed a joint ‘platform’ to promote peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Their message: violence in CAR is not primarily a religious conflict; instead, the root of the conflict lies in the struggle for political power.

The security situation has dramatically improved despite the persistence of violence and attacks in some areas of the country (such as in Bambari this past weekend, when at least 10 died), the clerics told World Watch Monitor.

In Bangui, life is returning to normal, including at PK5, a popular district and the economic heart of the capital, where business has resumed.

At the height of the crisis, PK5 was considered by many in Bangui as a stronghold of Séléka rebels, and a “no-go zone” for all non-Muslims.

But now, Central Africans of all faiths can come and go there safely, the clerics say, a sign that the country is beginning to recover.

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