THE Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed religious leaders from
the Central African Republic (CAR) to Lambeth Palace, as the UN
warned that the conflict in their country was getting worse.
On Monday, the RC Archbishop of Bangui, the Most Revd Dieudonné
Nzapalainga; the chief imam Omar Kabine Layama, and the President
of the Alliance of Evangelicals in CAR, the Revd Nicolas
Guérékoyamé Gbangou, visited Archbishop Welby.
They have been touring the CAR in recent weeks, attempting to
calm sectarian tensions and prevent violence between the mainly
Muslim Seleka rebels, and the mostly Christian "anti-balaka"
After the meeting, Archbishop Welby said: "I applaud this
inter-religious initiative to address the crisis, which is
primarily political and military, and which has left civilians so
vulnerable to armed attack. The very evident friendship and
interreligious co-operation between religious leaders offers both a
notable example and an effective platform for joint advocacy on
behalf of the people of the Central African Republic."
"It is essential that the international community offers every
bit of support it can at this critical time - most urgently in
protecting civilians from the spiralling violence."
Archbishop Nzapalainga said: "We must not only disarm weapons -
we must disarm the spirit and the heart."
On the same day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi
Pillay, said: "I call as a matter of utmost urgency upon the
international community to strengthen peacekeeping efforts."
Up to one million people are now thought to have been forced
from their homes after months of violence.
The new interim President, Catherine Samba-Panza (News, 24
January), has asked for more international peacekeepers to help
stop the fighting. There are currently 1600 French troops and 4000
African Union soldiers in the CAR.
There are signs that Christians are beginning to rebuild their
lives, however. Staff from the Bible Society who were forced to
leave their office in the capital Bangui have started working again
from a new location.