Free Press Journal

Pope Francis arrives in conflict-ridden Central African Republica


Bangui (Central African Republic): Pope Francis on Sunday arrived in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country torn apart by violence between Muslim rebels and Christian militias, on the last leg of his African tour.

This is the third and last country that the Pope is visiting — after Uganda and Kenya — rounding up his Africa trip, BBC reported.

During the visit, his first to a conflict zone, the pontiff will celebrate Mass in the capital, Bangui, but is also expected to meet Muslim leaders and visit a mosque in the city’s Muslim enclave, known as PK5.

Security has been heightened as there were concerns of the Pope’s safety ahead of his arrival. War has blighted the CAR for decades, but it was only two years ago the fighting took on a religious form.

President Francois Bozize was ousted in a coup in March 2013, and a group of mostly Muslim rebels from the north, the Seleka, marched on Bangui, briefly taking control of the country.

They targeted churches and Christian communities, which triggered the creation of the anti-Balaka — meaning anti-violence — militias, and led to a downward spiral of violence which continues till date.

Towns and villages are divided, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced into camps divided along religious lines.

CAR’s Christian population is 517 million about 63 percent of the total population, while Muslim population is 248 million which accounts for 30 percent of the total.