An interreligious delegation comprised of top Christian and Muslim leaders from Central African Republic travelled to the United States this March, determined to tell their country’s tale of conflict and compromise.
Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic, represents the Protestant community (52% of the population); Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, president of the Central African Republic Islamic Community, represents the Muslim community (15% of the population); and the Most Reverend Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, represents the Catholic Church (29% of the population).
This week, these three leaders are hosting U.S. religious and political leaders for a mirror visit to CAR. The group includes representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, and the Islamic Society of North America, along with Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Donald Koran and Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-large, Global Criminal Justice.
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We came to the United States of America almost a year since our country was set on fire, and still the flames of violence and vengeance are threatening to burn down a history of peace and coexistence in the Central African Republic. Today, security remains the rarest of commodities in our country as men, women and children fear the neighbours they grew up with.
Yet, despite the horrific violence, hope endures. Hope that fires can be put out, wounds healed and a country rebuilt. As religious leaders whose congregations represent almost the entire country, we are clear as to both our moral responsibility and the steps needed to take us out of the darkness. Our voice is strong, our message is simple. We support newly elected President Catherine Samba-Panza and her urgent call for a UN peacekeeping operation as soon as possible to take over from the African and French troops currently on the ground. This UN Operation must be robust not only to help restore security, law and order in our country, but it must bring resources to help rebuild our country’s administration. Without strong institutions, we risk the repeat of cycles of violence.