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CAR leaders welcomed at Lambeth

31 January 2014

PA

Celebration: Christians rejoice as Seleka Muslim militias leave the Kasai camp in Bangui, CAR, on Tuesday

Celebration: Christians rejoice as Seleka Muslim militias leave the Kasai camp in Bangui, CAR, on Tuesday

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" militias.

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.

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