Recent Attacks in Central African Republic Show Need for Urgent Dialogue

03 May 2018
Cardinal Nzapalainga speaks at a KAICIID event in Vienna, April 2018. Photo: KAICIID

Agustin Nunez-Vicandi

BANGUI, 3 May 2018 – This week, more than 20 people were reportedly killed and over 50 wounded in sectarian violence that hit a mosque and a church. The latest violence, believed to have been committed by armed groups, comes despite continuous international efforts to broker peace between factions and across religious lines since conflict first broke out in 2013. Unfortunately, violence begets violence – so, as David Brownstein, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Bangui told the Associated Press, what is needed is “calm and the cessation of revenge attacks”.

But of course, asking those who have lost loved ones to lay down their arms is easier said than done. Here too, leaders with various political aims have successfully manipulated religious identity to keep tensions high and their followers loyal.

Despite this darkness, many significant religious leaders are doing their best to put their faiths’ messages of love, peace and forgiveness at the forefront.

“I call on the population of the Central African Republic to remain calm, and for collective prayer to expel the evil that permeates the country. I call also for the Government to take responsibility, so that justice is done and the authors of these crimes are punished,” said Imam Kobine Layama, Leader of the CAR Interfaith Platform.

“I appeal to everyone so that we can have restraint, so that we can also have self-control, to avoid anger, to avoid hatred, revenge, retaliation. We have counted our dead, and we continue to count them. We have our sick, our disabled and we continue to count them. Thank you, let us stand up to block the road to the will to self-destruct,” said Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Leader of the CAR Interfaith Platform.

At the International Dialogue Centre, we are working to promote the voices and work of religious leaders who would rather light a candle than curse the darkness. With the support of the international community, we hope that the voices of these leaders can be amplified, and their efforts to reconcile members of their communities even down to the grassroots can be properly supported.

Agustin Nunez Vicandi, Manager of KAICIID’s Central African Republic Programme, said: “At times it can seem like dialogue efforts are futile, and that peaceful messages are drowned in the noise of attack and retribution. But there are leaders working hard and risking their lives every day for the sake of each other, for the sake of peace between and across different religious communities. We must promote these voices and these messages, and provide them not just a space to dialogue, but the means to implement cooperative visions.”  

The time for dialogue is now.