It was with great sorrow that Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received the news of the death of Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba and 15 other members of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, following an armed attack on 1 May. A few years ago, Father Albert had appealed to ACN during an interview to pray unceasingly for peace to return to his country.
On 1 May, violence once more broke out in the Central African Republic. In its capital city of Bangui, a group of armed men attacked the parish church of Our Lady of Fatima. Sixteen people were killed during the attack, including Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, and around one hundred people were injured. The fighting continued in the afternoon, costing two more Central Africans their lives and resulting in a fire that burned down a mosque.
The archbishop of Bangui, Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, rushed to return to the Central African Republic today to make a statement about the attack. The people are still suffering from the aftermath of years of conflict and are now afraid that this will bring about another bout of violence.
In a statement released by MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) on 1 May, the member states of the G5 (United Nations, African Union, Economic Community of Central African States, European Union, France and the United States) condemned “without reservation the attacks on the Church of Our Lady of Fatima and the mosque of Lakounga,” pointing out that “the manipulation of religion to serve the interests of criminal groups is not acceptable.” They called upon Central Africans to “resist this manipulation, the goal of which is to drive the country back into the trap of violence and vengeance.”
Honouring Father Albert, “a man of peace”
ACN would like to honour the life’s work of Father Albert Toungoumalé-Baba, the priest of the St. Joseph Mukasa parish in Bangui. Father Albert worked tirelessly for peace in his country and gave shelter to thousands of refugees in his parish. In a short video from an interview ACN held with him in 2016, he says, “Our country has been a country bruised, in distress, since December 2012. Weapons have not yet managed to stop the war, but continue to be heard. … No one has been able to bring peace back to the country. Pray, pray unceasingly for us, as Jesus taught us. Do not despair. May this message be heard by all who love peace.”