Islamists attack missionaries in Central African Republic

Islamist rebels attacked the mission station of the Sacred Heart Fathers of Bétharram in Bouar, in the north of the Central African Republic late last week.

According to a report by the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Italian missionary Father Beniamino Gusmeroli and a locally-born deacon, Brother Martial Mengue, were threatened with Kalashnikovs, tied up and gagged with adhesive tape the evening of Sept. 27.

The five armed men—who appeared to be of Sudanese origin—stole money, cameras, computers, documents and other items, ransacking the rooms of the mission station in the process. The assailants, who are part of the Séléka rebel group that has taken control of large parts of the country, took Brother Mengue as a hostage but released him some hours later.

Father Piero Trameri, mission procurator of the Sacred Heart Fathers, called for the “speedy and determined intervention of the international community.” The Bétharram Fathers devote themselves in particular to pastoral care and education. Mission stations and other Church facilities have become a favorite target for attack by the rebels.

Italian Carmelite priest Father Aurelio Gazzera—who works in Bozoum and himself has been assaulted by the rebels—said that “the situation in the Central African Republic is one of the subjects presently under discussion at the UN General Assembly. We hope that it will bring concrete results, because the situation is continuing to deteriorate.

“In the wake of the fighting that took place in recent weeks in Bossangoa, which drove 30,000 people from their homes, Séléka rebels killed two people and burned down 206 houses in the village of Herba.”

To flee recent clashes between rebels and supporters of ousted President François Bozize, 170,000 people have fled the country. According to the UN, 400,000 people, out of a population of nearly 5 million, have been displaced.




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