Women, Children Being 'Killed Openly' in CAR
While world attention focuses on Ukraine and the missing Malaysian airliner, some African religious leaders say their country is facing a worse crisis, one that is claiming scores of lives each day.
Violence in the Central African Republic has left thousands of people dead and more than a million people homeless.
In Washington this week, a multi-faith delegation said their country urgently needs help to end the suffering.
How bad is the crisis in the Central African Republic? CBNs Director of French speaking Africa Jon Cassel explains this and more on Christian World News, March 21. Click play to watch. Watch the full interview on The Global Lane.
What should the West be doing to help the situation? Sr. International Correspondent Gary Lane offers more insight, on CBN Newswatch, March 21.
The three-man delegation, Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga
Imam Omar Kobine Layama, came to America seeking help from members of Congress and others who would listen.
"We came here in Washington as Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims because our country is experiencing a crisis," Nzapalainga said.
They want Americans to know the Central African Republic is in the midst of a violent political upheaveal, one that is still claiming innocent lives.
"The situation now is critical and we have to act immediately and quickly. You have men, women, and children who are just killed openly," Nzapalainga explained.
The recent violence began when rebels, known as the Selekas, overthrew the government in March 2013.
"Many Christians here in this country, and I guess in the Central African Republic, believe all of this violence started about a year ago when Muslim militias started attacking churches, Christian homes and businesses," Imam Layama said.
Layama also told CBN News that the Seleka rebellion is comprised of 80 or 90 percent Muslim, adding that they have pillaged, burned, killed, and stolen many vehicles and places that belong to the church.
"But at the same time they have also done the same to the Islamic people as they have come," he argued. "When I saw how they were behaving I began to denounce them, to talk to them to explain that what they are doing had nothing to do with Islam...a good Muslim is someone who doesn't kill."
But the killing continued. Non-Muslim militias known as the anti-Balakas retaliated.
"The anti-Balaka militias began to occupy towns and villages, even until they reached Bangui," Guerekoyame-Gbangou said. "Their abuses of the civilians was so great, that the Muslims had to flee and many of them moved into our churches and parishes."
"We can say it has saved the lives of most of the Muslims who have remained in the Central African Republic," he said.
More than 700,000 people have fled the violence and are now internally displaced. Another 300,000 are refugees in neighboring countries.
Pastor Guerekoyame-Gbangou said many Christians like him have taken Muslim families into their homes.
A small number of French troops are attempting to keep the peace, but religious leaders say it's not enough. They want additional outside help.
They say U.N. peacekeepers are needed and Western nations should increase assistance to refugees and the internally displaced.
"All of these stories make us think of the tale of the Good Samaritan. And for us that Good Samaritan might be an American who is watching the TV now and might want to come and help our country," Nzapalainga said.
The archbishop, imam and pastor also urged people to pray for the Central African Republic.
"God says in the Bible that we should forgive our enemies. The prayers have to be oriented to reconciling hearts - to disarm hearts," Nzapalainga said.
They say it's the only way to bring about peace and start rebuilding their country.