Vatican City.- Pope Francis has offered a prayer in St. Peter’s Square for an end to violence in the deeply impoverished Central African Republic, which he visited 2 years ago.
Francis during his traditional Sunday blessing recalled the serious violence in recent days that left many, including a priest, dead. He called for an end to vendettas “to construct peace together.”
At least 19 people were killed and 98 wounded in the renewed sectarian violence in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui, with targets including a church, a mosque and health facilities. The country has faced deadly interreligious and intercommunal fighting since 2013.
During his November 2015 visit, the pope delivered a message of reconciliation.
“In a country where the images from months of horrific violence are still fresh in the memories of people, these renewed tensions could stoke more attacks and bloodshed if those responsible are not stopped once for all,” said Balkissa Ide Siddo, Amnesty International’s Central Africa researcher.
“Central African authorities and MINUSCA must send an immediate and clear message to all armed groups and their allies in CAR: No attack against civilians will be tolerated and all those suspected of committing war crimes and other serious human rights violations and abuses will be brought to justice.”
According to information collected by Amnesty International, the violence erupted after security forces attempted to arrest a member of an armed “self-defense” group in the neighborhood of PK5.
Members of the armed “self-defense” group opened fire on security forces in an attempt to rescue their member and in reprisal for the arrest. The situation escalated quickly and members of the armed “self-defense” group, targeted civilians during a mass at the Notre-Dame de Fatima church in Bangui.