Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 20 May 2013
“Reign of terror” against Christians in Central African Republic
Country/Region: Africa, Central African Republic
Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) are being targeted by Islamist militants who seized control of the country in March; they are being tied up, beaten and forced to hand over money to save their lives.
|“Grave violations” are being committed against civilians in CAR
CC BY-SA 2.0 / hdptcar
A pastor in CAR said that “a reign of terror” is being conducted against Christians by the Seleka rebels who took over the country in a bloody coup on 24 March. A number of Christians have been killed or wounded.
The church leader said that the rebels have a hit list of pastors and other Christian workers, and that places of worship are being attacked. Christian property is being looted. In one incident towards the end of last month, Seleka troops seized all the collection money given at a gathering of church leaders.
Many Christians have fled their homes to the countryside and are too fearful to return. More than 200,000 people are internally displaced, while 49,000 refugees have been registered in neighbouring countries.
On 10 May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report citing “grave violations” committed by the Seleka rebels against civilians, including pillage, summary executions, rape and torture.
Among the incidents described was a raid on a church in the capital Bangui. HRW said that this was one of Seleka’s first targets upon entering the city. The rebels fired into the air and robbed the worshippers.
HRW also recounted an attack on a funeral procession on the Ngaragba Bridge in Bangui on 13 April. As Seleka forces opened fire on the crowd, a church leader was killed as he appealed for calm. An eyewitness said:
[He] walked toward the Seleka elements on their pick-up raising a Bible in his hand and calling to stop shooting… [he] was shot dead by two Seleka fighters.
The crisis in CAR has largely slipped under the radar of the world’s media, and the predominantly Christian population feels abandoned by the international community.
Last week, the United Nations envoy to CAR, Margaret Vogt, urged the Security Council to consider the deployment of a security force to “contain the current state of anarchy” and also the imposition of sanctions on rebels accused of severe rights violations.
She said that there was a “total disregard for international law, as elements of Seleka turn their vengeance against the population”.
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