“We’ve also been giving out food vouchers in the Lobaye Prefecture that people can exchange for local produce, so that needy families are fed and local markets are supported,” Lambert explained. “Seeds and tools were distributed earlier in the year so that people could once again grow their own produce – as most had lost out on a growing season due to the violence.”
Lambert also reflected that the fighting “has taken on unfortunate religious dimensions, dividing Christians and Muslims who have always lived together peacefully in the past.”
“We stand with those in need, whether they’re Christian or Muslim,” she said.
In recent months, Central Africans have responded to the ex-Seleka by forming militias of their own, called anti-balaka, and violence has flared. The anti-balaka – meaning anti-machete in the Sango language – have been characterized by the BBC as “Christian self-defence militias” and as “local Christian militias” by The Independent.
In a Dec. 7 statement, the bishops of the Central African Republic stated, “we condemn the transgressions committed by both armed factions, the anti-balaka and the ex-Seleka.”
The bishops added that the fighting is not solely divided by religion, explaining that “not all anti-balaka are Christians and that not all Christians are anti-balaka,” and that “the same is true for ex-Seleka and Muslims.”
The Central African Republic is among the world’s poorest countries, with extremely low human development and major human rights abuses; the U.N. has indicated it is in danger of becoming a failed state. More than one million are in urgent need of food aid.
It borders the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, and South Sudan, many of which have experienced dramatic upheavals of their own in recent years.
The violence has forced many nonprofits to withdraw to Bangui, leaving the remainder of the country helpless. Doctors Without Borders reported in July that the country’s health care system has collapsed. In parts of the Central African Republic, malaria cases have doubled in the past year.
“The French and African Union forces are arriving and we just hope that order can be restored, and that people can live in peace once again,” Lambert reflected.
“This beautiful country and its people need – and deserve – our help.”