BANGUI, JANUARY 9, 2015(CISA) – Civil society and religious organizations in the Central African Republic are working to rebuild trust and harmony following increased religious hatred since the overthrow of President François Bozizé in March 2013.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bangui led an inter-faith forum comprising him, head of the country’s Islamic community Imam Omar Kobine Layama and Evangelical Alliance leader Nicolas Grekoyame Gbangou at the beginning of the year in a bid to bring reconciliation according to IRIN news.
The forum has been organizing regular prayer meetings and other gatherings to discuss peace and reconciliation.
In June 2014, the forum launched an “inter-religious campaign for social cohesion” – still ongoing and designed to narrow divisions in the country.
It also held a week of prayer and cultural dialogue after two months of sensitization on social cohesion.
“Our role as leaders is to be peace brokers, to create space for dialogue among communities. That’s the objective of the forum where Muslims, Protestants and Catholics are seated around a table to demonstrate that it is possible to live together… said Archbishop Nzapalainga.
“Our role as leaders is also to show the way forward – to say the way is not barbarism and killings, but fraternity, forgiveness, unity and reconciliation,” he added.
Debates, sporting and cultural events, as well as visits to the camps of the displaced, have been organized.
A large religious ceremony that brought together the faithful of multiple confessions in a Bangui stadium was also held, while some 400 religious leaders have been trained to encourage reconciliation.
Over 860,000 people are currently displaced as a result of the conflict.
Archbishop Nzapalainga and a group of Christians visited a camp where thousands of ex-Seleka rebels are being held. The former rebels had a few days earlier protested against their living conditions and demanded improvements from the government.
“The church is organizing activities where Muslims and Christians work together for social cohesion,” the archbishop said. With his encouragement, displaced Muslims have been given shelter at various parishes across the country.
In early December 2014 residents of the predominantly Christian neighbourhood of Fatima played a football match against the Muslim district of PK 5, an area from where armed men in May and April carried out a series of attacks on Fatima residents.