Central African Republic after Pope Francis’ Visit
Vatican Radio || Fr. Paul Samasumo || 08 August 2016
“I think my country (Central African Republic), has seen it all. We have been through difficult and trying situations in the past but in the midst of it all, we had the great joy of welcoming the Holy Father, Pope Francis between the 29 and 30 of November last year. Since his visit, we have lived a life full of grace; a life of mercy showered upon us from heaven above,” Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, speaking in French, recently told Vatican Radio’s English Africa Service in an interview.
Asked to reflect on life in the Central African Republic (CAR) today, the Archbishop of Bangui credits recent successes to Pope Francis.
“Right now in my country, everyone will tell you the same thing. Be they Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, everyone! They will say the same thing: Pope Francis brought a new breath of fresh air to our country and individual lives. Before he came, we were divided into our little camps, chained to our hatreds; isolated and busy meting out the most barbaric punishment against those we considered our enemies. From the moment Pope Francis set foot on CAR, right up to today, I really can tell you that there is a different atmosphere in our land. Yes, we still have many challenges, but those of us who live there know that things are now different and better. Nothing compares to where we were before. Now we can talk to each other in spite of our differences. People are now able to look each other in the eye and even shake hands. I see forgiveness and reconciliation every day. Relationships across communities have improved and continue to improve, ” Archbishop Nzapalainga outlined.
And the future? Does he see a day when CAR will be united as one democratic country that can protect its citizens from armed gangs, militants and bandits?
“You ask me about the future? We, the people of CAR are the ones to build the future of our beautiful country. We are a country that is blessed with many natural resources and minerals as the Holy Father, Pope Francis, himself reminded us when he visited. Before Pope Francis came, who would have thought, after what we had been through that a peaceful presidential election could take place in CAR? But we did it. We have done it,” the Archbishop of Bangui emphasised.
Faustin-Archange Touadera, the new President of CAR, was peacefully elected in February, this year. Nevertheless, Touadera’s government faces enormous challenges. The new government is struggling to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate the many armed militants spread throughout CAR.
Archbishop Nzapalainga admits that it will take a time to normalise things in CAR. But he is confident and upbeat about the future.
“We still face so many challenges, but it can be done. After the peaceful presidential election, we all know now that everything is possible. It’s our responsibility to ensure that things work out the way we desire them to be. The coming of Pope Francis has allowed us to look towards the future with hope. That’s why for his first international trip, the newly elected president (Faustin-Archange Touadera) felt duty-bound to go to the Vatican to meet and personally thank Pope Francis for his visit to CAR,” Archbishop Nzapalainga said.
Archbishop Nzapalainga wants his countrymen and women also to take a broader view of the challenges of CAR.
“The Holy Father asked us to place the love for one another as a priority among ourselves. We cannot afford to fail in our peacebuilding effort. If God forbid, we do not manage to do this; we will not only be failing the people of CAR but the international community as well. Six neighbouring countries surround us. We have already seen that when CAR as a country collapses, the virus of destabilisation does not only affect us alone but spreads to the whole region. We should, therefore, be mindful of our larger responsibility as a people,” Archbishop Nzapalainga advised.
In July, at the Kigali African Union Summit, in Rwanda, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and CAR were warmly re-admitted into the African Union after an absence of three years.
Source: Vatican Radio…