Mission Station Attacked in Central African Republic

Priests Call for Help From International Community

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The Sacred Heart Fathers' mission station in Bouar in the north of the Central African Republic was attacked by Islamist rebels last Friday.

Sources in the country told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, that Italian missionary Father Beniamino Gusmeroli and locally born Deacon Martial Mengue were threatened by five armed men, who tied up the clerics and gagged them with adhesive tape. 

The armed men, who were believed to be Sudanese, ransacked the rooms of the mission station taking money, cameras, computers and other items.

The rebels took Deacon Mengue as a hostage, but released him some hours later.

Noting the deterioration in the situation in the country, Father Piero Trameri, mission procurator of the Sacred Heart Fathers, called for the “speedy and determined intervention of the international community."

Sources in the country said that mission stations and church-owned buildings are often targeted by the rebels.

Italian Carmelite priest, Father Aurelio Gazzera, who works in Bozoum, told ACN that he hopes that the international community will react to the latest attack.

He said: “Central Africa 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.

“As well as the fighting that took place in recent weeks in Bossangoa and drove 30,000 people to flight, last week the Séléka rebels killed two people and burned down 206 houses in the village of Herba, which lies 70 kilometers from the road to Bocaranga.”

Father Gazzera, who has been working in the Central African Republic for 20 years, was beaten by members of Séléka on Sept. 16, when visiting a rebel base to ask for the release of captives.

He told ACN: “When I explained why I had come, the commander answered that they were soldiers and could do what they liked.

“At that moment, another of the leaders came into the room and screamed that he would kill me. I had no right to come and plead for the prisoners, he shouted. He threatened me with a pistol and hit me in the face.”

Although the Séléka rebel alliance was officially disbanded on Sept. 13 by President Djotodia, there are about 25,000 Séléka rebels in the country.

“How long is this hell going to continue? No concrete steps are being taken that could lead to the rebels laying down their arms,” said Fr Gazzera. 

In the past two weeks, clashes between Séléka and other armed groups in Ouham Pende Prefecture have resulted in more than 170,000 displaced people.

According to the United Nations, 400,000 of the Central African Republic’s population of 5 million have fled their homes.