The Central African Republic is the center of one of the most underreported crises in recent history, during which we witnessed the emergence of social media and the flow of instantaneous – not merely instant – information.
The conflict that started between Christian and Muslim militias in the region has claimed thousands of lives and displaced, according to the United Nations, almost a million people.
Although religious violence is still ongoing between belligerent forces on both sides, there are some courageous people working to create peace and interfaith harmony in the conflict-stricken country.
Imam Moussa Bawa and Sister Maria Concetta are two such individuals.
Sister Maria helps refugee children with school and medical aid. The strong-willed 80-year-old nun has, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, helped deliver 20,000 babies.
“Being a refugee is painful,” Sister Maria told UNHCR’s Céline Schmitt. “They are not at home. We have to understand them. When something is missing but you are at home, it’s fine, but when something is missing and you are in exile, it is an even bigger suffering.”
Just like Sister Maria, Imam Moussa Bawa also helps the destitute people of all religions rebuild their lives at immigrant camps.
Apart from comforting them spiritually, the Muslim leader welcomes refugees to his home.
“We have to talk to one side and the other side and then create an opportunity to bring both sides together,” he told Schmitt.
“I give messages of reconciliation during the prayer on Friday. Sometimes, I preach only about patience. I tell people to be patient and to forget the past. I know that if someone has killed your son, your father, it is impossible to forget until you die, but it is possible to forgive. God also forgives.”
According to Sister Maria and Imam Bawa, the CAR crisis is more political than religious.
“In 34 years here [in Zongo], there has never been any problem between Christians and Muslims,” the imam stated. “It hurts me. God said, ‘Assemble, all of you’. There was no mention of Christians or Muslims. He said: ‘Unite.’”
Sister Maria added that Christians work together with Muslims at the Zongo hospital.
“We know each other very well. We have joint events, bringing together the different religions. My message is a message of peace. Peace brings development, love and brotherhood,” she concluded.