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Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
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The Suffering Church in the Central African Republic

Pierre Holtz/UNICEF

Aid to the Church in Need - published on 12/17/13 - updated on 06/07/17

With their destruction the goal, the local people have been subject to real psychological torture. That has been the experience of the displaced people at the chancellery and at the Bouca mission station. These people who escaped death are mocked throughout the day by these Tchadian warlords. They are constantly threatening to attack with heavy weaponry the chancellery and those seeking shelter inside. The latest threats came in the wake of the anti-balaka attack on the capital city of Bangui on Dec. 5, 2013. Thanks be to God for the bravery of the Congolese troops of the Multinational Central African Force (FOMAC) and their professionalism in protecting the civilian population, regardless of people’s political, philosophical and religious convictions. The criminal burning down of 500 homes in the neighborhoods surrounding the Bangui’s archdiocesan chancellery … triggered the deployment of French troops in the city. On Monday Dec. 9, 2013, they began with the disarmament and billeting of seleka forces. Some anti-balaka militants who had slipped in among the displaced staying at the chancellery … gave up their arms to FOMAC and French troops, before retreating into the bush. It took a lot of persuasion for these men to overcome their fear and comply with this security measure. We are now entering a period of reasoning and the voluntary surrender of weapons.

The coup of March 24, 2013 was too much. It has plunged this suffering country into the depths of an abyss. The country is in shambles, its administration paralyzed, its economic fabric destroyed. The Central African Republic has become a shadow of its former self. The country now faces one of its worst demons. It is a failed state that has subjected its citizens to lawless hordes of mercenaries. How can we rebuild this country that has been razed to the ground? Hospitals are non-existent and the schools are not functioning. The future of the republic is up for grabs, at the mercy of adventurers and dubious politicians. The prospects for the future are dark and uncertain. Reconstruction will be difficult. As regards the diocese, things are terrible. Moreover, its pastoral institutions—the pastoral center of Bossangoa, the catechetical center of Gofo, presbyteries, convents, churches and chapels—as well as those providing healthcare and education have been pillaged and vandalized. … Nonetheless, we need to do something urgently for those staying at the chancellery. Hence, in partnership with UNICEF, we have repaired the dispensary at Bossangoa.

The military and political crisis that has affected the bulk of the diocese since March 2013 has kept us from being able to properly execute our pastoral programs in the areas of health, education and professional formation. Nevertheless, we have become adept at managing an emergency situation. We thank all those who have supported us financially in our efforts to help victims of the unrest. We thank the friends of the schools of Bossangoa for their precious contributions to the pursuit of activities in the realm of healthcare, agriculture, education and professional formation. … Already I can say that the re-launch of initiatives will largely depend on careful thought, the repair of infrastructure and the production of educational and medical supplies.

The socio-political situation appears to be desperate. Nonetheless, Advent prepares for the celebration of the happy event in human history: God made Himself one of us in His smallness, his humility and his fragility. He lifts us up from our degradation to fill us with His glory. I am confident that this hope for the people of the Central African Republic will not be in vain. The God who stoops down to the poor, the orphan and the widow, will certainly dry the tears in His children’s eyes and bring them His joy.

Originally published by Aid to the Church in Need.

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