In Central African Republic, Church works hard to restore sense of 'human dignity'

The principal challenge is to restore people's sense of their human dignity, above all through the education of the young.

Speaking with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Coadjutor Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa of the Diocese of Alindao in the Central African Republic expresses his concern about ongoing violence in the country. According to L'Osservatore Romano, Catholic parishes and other institutions are sheltering at least 5,000 persons displaced because of renewed fighting in the country.

By Amélie de la Hougue

What is the situation in the Central African Republic today with regard to security?

In the capital and in a few of the major cities security has once more been restored, thanks to the presence of the UN security forces. On the other hand, in the smaller towns, and in the countryside, the situation is more difficult for the local population. There are still many armed groups; armed robberies, violence and extortion continue. The bishops are continuing to call for disarmament, but neither the government nor the UN forces have made much effort in this direction.

How do Christians feel today?

That depends on where they live, but generally speaking they do have hope. In terms of their faith, the situation we are experiencing has helped them to grow and given them a great deal of courage. One senses now that the Christians are more earnest, more committed than before.

Militia in Central African Republic.jpg

How are relations with the Muslims?

In our diocese, as a whole, there was never any confrontation between Christians and Muslims. Certainly, we sense that there is a certain reticence among the people, but they are trying to continue living together despite everything. The Church strongly promotes opportunities for dialogue, involving Muslim leaders as well as Protestants. This has borne many good fruits, for now even the authorities are asking the advice of religious leaderships. Being together in this way gives us greater credibility.

What are the challenges for the Church today?

The principal challenge is to restore people’s sense of their human dignity, above all through the education of the young. Young people are the future of the country; they represent 70 percent of the population. We have to give a sense of meaning to their lives, for in this way we will gain a great deal – since it is through them that we will be able to rebuild the country. We also want to emphasize the formation of the laity, since from now on it will be the laity who will shoulder the main responsibilities, they are the ones who should be listened to much more than before. After that we will have to think about rebuilding the infrastructure; but first of all it is man himself whom we need to rebuild.

What are your hopes for the visit of the Pope, who is scheduled to be in the country Nov. 27-29, 2015?

That he may put a little bit of new heart in us and calm the tensions, so as to give new confidence to the people. They are waiting for him with great joy, and everybody is actively making preparations. It is a great sign of hope for us, for it shows us that in the midst of our difficulties the Pope has thought of us.

Militia in Central African Republic; ACN photo/Father Aurelio Gazzera

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