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Churches shelter Muslims in Central African Republic
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March 13, 2014

Baoro, Central African Republic — Churches in Central African Republic (CAR) are caring for thousands of Muslims who have been trapped in a cycle of revenge attacks perpetrated by a pro-Christian militia.

Since December 2013, Anti-Balaka militias have been emptying Muslim quarters and avenging earlier attacks by the Seleka, an Islamist militia. The Seleka rampaged through the country in early 2013, terrorizing Christians and ransacking churches, hospitals and shops. Now that the Muslim president Michel Djotodia has stepped down, Seleka is being forced to withdraw from its strongholds as the center of power shifts, amid a mass exodus and displacement of Muslims.

In Baoro, a town in the northwest, a Roman Catholic parish is caring for more than 2,000 Muslims who cannot flee. A group of Catholic sisters in the town of Bossemptele is sheltering more than 500 Muslims — providing food, water and medicine.

One reason Muslims are able to take shelter in churches is because the country’s religious leaders believe this is a nonreligious conflict, said pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbango, president of the CAR Alliance of Evangelical Churches.

“This is contributing some tolerance, although many people, including Christians, have taken up arms,” he said.

Dieudonne Nzapalainga, Roman Catholic archbishop of the Bangui Archdiocese, has welcomed the president of the country’s Islamic community to live with him in the church compound.

“Love should be a characteristic of Christians,” he said. “You can’t call yourself a Christian if you kill your brother.”

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