March 18, 2013

Christians in the Central African Republic are being systematically targeted by armed rebels, a missionary priest in the country said.

Comboni Father Leo Tibenda told Catholic News Service March 7 that rebels seeking to overthrow the government of President Francois Bozize arrived at his mission in early January promising not to harm anything belonging to churches or mosques.

“But they started victimizing local Christians, telling them their cattle, many given by the Church via Caritas, now belonged to the state.

Most wear turbans, which isn’t the custom here, and are much better armed than the government’s soldiers.

Their presence is fueling serious tension between local Christians and Muslims,” the Ugandan-born priest said.

Many priests have fled their parishes in the region, leaving their churches to be ransacked and desecrated, while most local Christians feared attack if they left their homes and farmsteads, Tibenda said.