“These rebels are bandits, not fighting a religious war. For them religion is merely a pretext for exploitation.”
Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia, the chairman of the Central African bishops’ conference, is expressing what most people think, namely that what is happening in the Central African Republic is not a religious conflict. Over two-thirds of the mercenaries fighting for the rebel groups are from foreign countries and have their sights set on the country’s mineral wealth and easy profits. The Church has nothing for them to steal, nor does the diocese of Alindao.
But a tender plant is being nurtured here, that of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Most of the meetings were held in the bishop’s house, which was basically a large presbytery. But this was largely destroyed and ransacked, when the church was attacked. Still, the dialogue must go on – as it has practical implications. The presbytery was also a place of encounter and support for all the people of the diocese, a symbol of fellowship, a sign of reassurance that the Church will not abandon anyone.
The bishop’s house is where most of the priests of Alindao are now sheltering, in hastily repaired quarters – tiny rooms, barely 10 feet square – too cramped for dialogue, with scarcely space to breathe in, too small to live in long-term. Rebuilding it will bring fresh hope to the priests and people of the diocese. We have promised €85,000 towards the cost.