World News

Central Africa: what lies behind interreligious violence

Religion has been used as an instrument between different factions in Central Africa which undermined the peaceful coexistence of Muslim, Christian and animist communities.


The war continues in the Central African Republic. It is not a real civil conflict nor a classic clash among armies. It is widespread violence that undermines the stability of the Country and severely affects civilian populations.

For a long time, the media and international observers have talked about a showdown between the Muslim and Christian communities. Over the years, however, it has emerged that behind the facade of “religious tensions” (which also exist) there are economic interests of old colonial powers (France), new international powers (China and Russia) and neighboring countries (Chad, Sudan and Cameroon). But where does this conflict sink its roots?

There is a date that marks the beginning of this difficult political and social phase of the Central African Republic. It is March 24, 2013. On that day President François Bozizé was forced to flee the capital in the face of the advance of the Seleka militias.

«Since independence – says Father Dorino Livraghi, Jesuit, a missionary in Bangui for years to Agenzia Fides – the Country has been shaken by coups. The local population considered them almost physiological. After the first few weeks of instability, however, everything returned as before. This time it became clear that we were facing something different».

The Seleka militias were made up of Muslim rebels mostly from Chad and Sudan. Therefore foreigners and Muslims, in a country that has always looked with suspicion on the populations that came from the North.

“In reality – notes in a conversation with Fides Father Aurelio Gazzera, Carmelite, missionary in Bozoum -, there has never been a conflict in the Country between Christian, animist and Muslim communities. On the contrary, there has always been a delicate balance that saw, on the one hand, Christians dealing with agriculture, small commerce and administration and, on the other, Muslims dealing with breeding and wholesale trade”.

In the years that followed the coup against Bozizé, Seleka militants were gradually opposed by Christian-animist groups gathered under the anti-Balaka acronym. «Religion was used in an instrumental way – continues Father Gazzera -. For militia leaders, it is a useful means of inciting militants, almost all very young, poor and poorly educated, against opponents. Coexistence, we can say without being proven wrong, has been undermined by commanders and politicians». 


See the original article here.

You can read the full analysis in Italian by a click here.

Photo is courtesy of Unsplash.

Leave a reply