YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Religion is now being used to “sow hatred” and “divide the country” in the Central African Republic, according to the nation’s Catholic bishops and Islamic religious leaders.
The country has experienced instability since 2013, when Seleka, a Muslim-majority militia movement, overthrew the government. The Christian-dominated Anti-Balaka militia then formed to fight the Seleka. French and African peacekeepers were deployed in January 2014 and drove the Seleka forces from the capital, Bangui.
With a newly elected government unable to move beyond Bangui, armed groups and militias have taken control of more than 70 percent of the country.
“We draw the attention of Central Africans to avoid revenge that could lead to genocide and therefore to the realization of a hidden program to divide us. Be vigilant to avoid manipulation,” the bishops wrote in a new pastoral statement called “Who can separate us from the love of Christ?”
The country’s imams also issued a statement saying, “acts of violence that have been happening for some time in Central Africa are aimed at turning the political crisis into a confessional crisis.”
The imams reminded people of the secular nature of the state “and the freedom of worship guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Christians make up about 80 percent of the population of the Central African Republic, and Muslims about 15 percent.
The Muslim population is concentrated in the north of the country that touches on the Sahel region of Africa, although there are many Muslim traders in the south.
The southern city of Bangassou has become a flashpoint in the conflict. The Catholic cathedral in the city has become home to some 2,000 Muslims who live under the protection of the Catholic bishop, Spaniard Juan José Aguirre Muñoz.
Read more at Crux.