Religious leaders address violence in Central African Republic

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Transform Minnesota calls on Christians to be peacemakers

In early April, Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and other religious leaders traveled to the Central African Republic (CAR) in an effort to help bring peace to the troubled nation, according to a press release from the NAE. The peacemaking trip was organized by the U.S. State Department and also included Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Imam Mohamed Elsanousi, director of Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of North America.

Anderson talked about the violence that has gripped the country. “The stories of brutality against innocent people are heart breaking,” Anderson said, via the release. “There have been rapes, mutilations and murders. One man told about his 13 brothers being burned to death. Another reported a hand grenade thrown into people praying in a mosque. All but seven of the 36 mosques in Bangui have been destroyed. Church buildings in villages have been burned down.” [pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]The stories of brutality against innocent people are heart breaking.[/pullquote] According to the NAE, the violence began in December when a rebel group overthrew the government and since then, more than 2,000 people have been killed and thousands of others have been displaced. Some in the international press have stated that the violence is rooted in religion, according to the NAE. However, the evangelical group says leaders in the country believe this assessment is an oversimplification.

Leith Anderson, president of NAE
Leith Anderson, president of NAE

“They say that Christian and Muslim militias do not represent most Christians and Muslims in the country,” the release said. “Many Christian churches are providing safe places for their Muslim neighbors, and Muslims have sheltered Christians. Christians and Muslim leaders have encouraged the international media to remember that the violence by the militias contradicts their religious traditions.” Carl Nelson, president and CEO of Transform Minnesota, believes the violence in the CAR serves as a reminder for Christians to embrace peace. “Jesus calls His followers to be peacemakers, and we urge those people in the Central African Republic who are followers of Christ to seek peace and work toward peaceful solutions to the conflict in their country,” Nelson said.

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