Pastor and son latest victims of Central African Republic violence

(AP)
In this Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 photo, civilians fleeing violent attacks by armed rebels seek refuge in the yard of a church in Bossangoa, Central African Republic.

A Baptist pastor and his son were killed on Tuesday at their home in Bangui as violence escalated in the northern suburbs of the city.

The Central African Republic has been beset by violence since March last year, when a coalition of rebel groups, led by Michel Djotodia under the Séléka banner, drove out President Francois Bozizé in a coup.

Though Séléka has been officially disbanded as of September 2013, members have continued their attacks – raping, looting and murdering innocent civilians – which has inspired an opponent faction to rise up under the name anti-Balaka.

Violence between the two groups has spread throughout the country, resulting in 200,000 people being internally displaced, while an estimated 20,000 have fled the country. Thousands have lost their lives.

Pastor Kongbo, treasurer of the Union des Eglises Baptistes (UEB) and his son were killed by Séléka forces who have been fighting against the anti-Balaka in the northern outskirts of Bangui since 21 January.

Though French troops are in the area and trying to bring peace, civilians have still been forced to seek refuge in churches.

Both Christian and Muslim leaders have appealed for a peace treaty between rebel forces, assuring the international community that it is not, as has been widely reported, a religious war, but instead one born out of a "legacy of neglect, economic marginalisation and political exploitation".

However, the Imam of the Central Mosque in Bangui, Walidou Modibo, has said that Muslim leaders have stopped calling for peace as a result of the atrocities being committed against their community.

Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Imam Omar Kabine Layama, two-thirds of the CAR's Inter-Religious Forum, are currently visiting Europe to encourage leaders to further their contribution towards the peace process in the nation and to increase humanitarian aid.

They met with the Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi, on Monday, who assured them that the UK will "maintain its commitment to the people of CAR, and stand with them in this dark hour".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement on 27 January in which she implored the international community to "strengthen peacekeeping efforts" in CAR, asserting that "many lives are at stake".

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council acted decisively by extending the mandate of the UN peace building office in the country, adding travel bans and asset freezes to an arms embargo already in place and unanimously authorising the deployment of EU troops in an effort to quell the "continuing deterioration of the security situation in the CAR".

Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas has said the charity is praying for Pastor Kongbo's family, as well as all those who are grieving across the fractured country. He has also underlined the importance of putting effective peacekeeping measures in place to protect the most vulnerable people of CAR.

"The continuing efforts of key leaders from both religious communities towards reconciliation in the face of relentless atrocities is courageous and laudable, and we join them in condemning violence committed by all armed groups," he said.

"While recognising the international community's steadfast commitment to resolve the ongoing crisis, CSW echoes the call for the urgent and rapid deployment of sufficient peacekeepers to ensure security for the civilian population, which continues to suffer greatly.

"Every assistance must be given to Interim President Samba-Panza and interim Prime Minister Nazapayéké as they begin the monumental task of stabilising the country, restoring law and order, disarming the various militia groups, encouraging reconciliation and facilitating the return of one million displaced citizens to their homes," he concluded.

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