AFRICAN DIARY / Fr. Gheddo: Muslim rebels are killing Christians village by village
Seleka rebels (Archive)
"In the Central African Republic, the al-Qaeda guerrillas of Seleka continue to attack the churches, shops and homes of Christians. In every conquered village, rebel militias are killing all the Christians and destroying their huts, leaving only those of Muslims standing." This is the report of Father Piero Gheddo, journalist and PIME missionary, according to whom what is happening is "not just a rebellion against the government, but a targeted attack against Christians." From the beginning of the conflict, on December 10, 2012, Father Gheddo has received dozens of letters with detailed accounts of the atrocities of war described by missionaries from every village in the country. The religious composition of the Central African Republic is very diverse: Catholics are 20%, Protestants 16%, Animists 19% and Muslims 15%. On Tuesday, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, urged the EU countries to send troops to support the peacekeeping intervention on the part of Paris.
Father Gheddo, what is happening in the Central African Republic?
Religious, political and strategic factors involved in the conflict are much more complex than it might first appear. To understand what is happening on the ground, however, it is helpful to begin from the report that was sent to me by Father Celestino, the pastor of Bohog, 70 km from Bouar.
What did Father Celestino tell you?
From the moment when Seleka appeared in his city, three different guerrilla groups followed, but they all showed the same hostile attitude. Makeshift barriers were erected at the entrance and exit to Bohog to extort money from the population and the merchants. For some time, local Seleka groups have begun to arrest and kill Christians, based perhaps on news from the outside.
So what happened?
On August 16, 2013, a group of Seleka with some young Muslims from Bohog were headed to the rectory, where they broke down the door of the house of the parish priest, Father Celestino, then headed to the sisters' house, where they ripped off all the doors and plundered at will. At this moment, it is impossible to have a precise number of the dead and wounded among the civilian population, because they continue to attack the churches, shops and homes of Christians.
Is Bohog an isolated case?
No. In every conquered village, rebel militias are killing all the Christians and destroying their huts, leaving only those of Muslims standing. Therefore, it is not just a rebellion against the government, but a targeted attack against Christians. They are persecuted because they are seen as enemies of Islam.
What is the origin of this persecution?