Bishop spared execution by Islamist militant with 'a good conscience'

(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
In this Monday, April 14, 2014 photo, an elder Muslim refugee uses crutches to walk next to a youth inside the Catholic church in Carnot, Central African Republic. The Rev Justin Nary and his colleagues have been caring for 900 Muslims at the church since early February, when Christian militia fighters attacked the town. The crisis in the Central African Republic has forced nearly 1 million people from their homes.

A bishop kidnapped by Islamist militants in the Central African Republic has told of how he narrowly escaped being beheaded.

Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia was kidnapped by Seleka militants along with three priests back in April.

The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence and killings since the Seleka took control in March last year.

Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia was informed by his kidnappers he would be executed for his part in the resistance against Seleka.

The three priests seized with him were also to be executed.

"The feeling I had was guilt, not for myself but my priests who were willing to be killed," the bishop told the Catholic Herald during a visit to the UK to ask for the nation's help in implementing UN peacekeeping resolutions.

But Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia was spared to death when one of the commanding officers received a call from his elder brother who was from the town where the bishop was kidnapped.

"He called him and told him not to harm us. He had a good conscience and listened to his elder brother," the bishop says.

It was the same officer who watched over the bishop and priests, and made sure they were released the following day.

Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia said the security situation in the country is still "horrible" and people continue to be killed every day.

He added that much of the church infrastructure – churches, schools, clinics – has been destroyed as a result of the violence.

Nonetheless, he is hoping the international community will do more to help.

"Actions should be taken to establish a state of security, but Central Africa has never been at the minds of people at the international level. Some timid actions have happened but it's never mobilised the international community," he said.

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