A BISHOP in the Central African Republic has charged that the Gulf States—with the alleged complicity of Islamic nations in Africa—are masterminding a “secret agenda” to invade the Central African Republic, drive out non-Muslims, and divide the country in two.
However, Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muñoz of Bangassou vowed that the Church would never leave the country and remains committed to helping the poorest of the poor and building bridges with Muslims.
In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishop Aguirre condemned what he called a “secret agenda” involving the Gulf states as well as “countries hiding in the shadows,” such as Chad, Niger, Sudan, Libya and other Islamic nations in Africa.
He said: “Thousands of mercenaries, most of them foreigners, have invaded the country from the north aided by the Gulf States and by Chad and with the complicity of other countries, such as Sudan and Niger.
“Their aim is to divide up the country and they are helping themselves like pitiless predators to the mineral wealth of the country.”
Accusing the Gulf States of supplying weapons, munitions, vehicles, and logistics, the bishop said the attacks “were aimed at expelling the non-Muslims from the areas [the mercenaries] have conquered, and ultimately they are seeking the partition of the country.”
Insisting that Christian-Muslim animus was not the sole root of the conflict between Ex-Séléka and Anti-Balaka militias, he charged that many of the armed groups are being funded by foreign powers.
Describing how the civilian population “were being massacred” by attacks, the prelate spoke of multiple violent incidents creating thousands of refugees.
Recounting an attack last year in Nzacko, he said mercenaries “drove every non-Muslim out of the town so that the non-Muslim population has now lost everything, many of them even their lives.
“The Catholic mission was completely destroyed, razed to the ground—the rectory, the operating theatre, fully equipped for major operations, the Catholic school, the old church and the new one; we feel especially persecuted by these radical Muslims.”
Paying tribute to the courage of priests, seminarians, and catechists who “remain there resolutely, like pillars of bronze, in some of the most difficult regions,” the bishop affirmed Church’s determination not to be cowed by the violence.
Stressing the Church’s commitment to help orphans, rape victims, the old and sick, he said: “Even though the NGOs are leaving for security reasons, the Catholic Church will always remain on the spot, alongside the poorest and most deprived.” He said that, across his diocese, “many Christians had died a martyr’s death.”
The bishop paid tribute to ACN saying: “ACN is part of the miracle [of the Church’s continued presence and outreach] because you are helping us to encourage these exiled families to return and to rebuild their homes, helping school children, orphaned and refugee children.
“The mission stations of Bema and Zemio in our diocese are able to keep their schools running—thanks to ACN and its donors.”
—Citra Abbott and John Pontifex