Pope Francis: “Let us pray for peace in Africa, especially in the Central African Republic and in South Sudan.”
“The landlocked former French colony – one of the poorest places on earth – has been plunged into chaos since the Seleka rebels seized power from President Francois Bozize four months ago, triggering a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Africa.”
Fabrice Musoni recently wrote about the crisis and ways a disaster might be averted. However, violence has been escalating, and we are now witnessing the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population. Amnesty International has a short video describing recent developments:
Samantha Power: “The duty we have is an urgent and active one: to confront evil, to defend truth, to unite in the face of threats to human dignity, and to strive to stop any who would abuse their neighbors.”
The dire situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), a landlocked country the size of Texas with a population of over 4 million, has sparked fears of a possible genocide and international efforts underway have so far failed to effectively prevent a serious humanitarian crisis. There have been disheartening reports of mass killings, beheadings of children, and cannibalism.
Despite the presence of African Union (AU) and French peacekeeping forces, the United Nations (UN) estimates that 2.2 million people need humanitarian assistance and over 500, 000 people, including nearly half the population of the capital city Bangui, have been displaced by fighting between the largely Muslim Seleka coalition, which took power in a March 2013 coup, and the anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) militias of the country’s majority Christians, backed by soldiers of the former government.
However, the media’s rather simplistic portrayals of the crisis in terms of religious polarization between Muslims and Christians have drawn criticism from local religious leaders. “Not all Anti-Balaka are Christians, and not all Christians are Anti-Balaka—it is the same with Seleka and Muslims,” a 10-member Catholic bishop conference said in a statement released recently. “The imprecise terminology which turns Anti-Balaka into a Christian militia must be corrected. This amalgam, propagated by the national and international media, gives a confessional slant to a conflict which is, above all, political and military,” the bishops added.
While the recent uptick in hostilities garners much needed attention, decades of domestic instability complicated by interference from neighboring states should have served as warning signs that CAR was at risk of state collapse and of the humanitarian consequences to follow. With a history of military coups and several rebellions since gaining independence from France in 1960, the March 2013 coup led by the Seleka rebels—a coalition of five rebel groups from the marginalized northern part of the country and backed by mercenary fighters from Sudan and Chad—ousted former president Francois Bozize without much effort.
A more robust, better-resourced international response is needed to stem the violence and provide immediate humanitarian aid, a necessary springboard as the new transitional leadership embarks on the journey to restore stability and foster reconciliation. This week, donors pledged $200 million in humanitarian aid and $280 million in development assistance, as the EU agreed to send 500 troops, but even more assistance is needed to ensure a positive outcome.
Unable to re-establish security and public order, interim President Michel Djotodia stepped down earlier this month, paving the way for the election of Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui who was chosen as the country’s new interim president on Monday, becoming the first woman to lead the nation. Samba-Panza and the country’s parliament have the challenging task of ensuring that there will be free, credible and democratic elections.
However, the current instability suggests the most pressing issues must be addressed ahead of elections with the people of CAR playing a central role in the process. A successful transition and reconstruction can only be achieved if minimum security conditions are met. In the immediate term, the Security Council should authorize a UN Chapter VII (Obligatory on all member states) resolution, to allow the stabilization mission, MISCA, supported by French forces, to take all necessary means to restore law and order, protect civilians, provide humanitarian relief and document human rights abuses. AU-led forces under MISCA and French forces already on the ground should be reinforced to effectively support the stabilization effort. Religious leaders in CAR have demanded that the participation of troops from neighboring Chad, whose government has been accused of backing Seleka, should be reconsidered. As conditions for peace, Christian and Muslim leaders have called on all factions to disarm and agree to work together to promote inter-religious dialogue, education and training on reconciliation and peacebuilding.
Check out these recent articles from around the web:
A Raw Deal: Our Pain, Their Gain by Michael Stafford: “The great task that has been set before us in the coming years is simply this- to break the power of the wealthy and make America’s government one run by and for the people once again.”
China has not been able to hide Liu Xiaobo’s ideas by Dana Nemcova, Jiri Gruntorad and Jan Ruml: “Liu may be invisible outside his prison cell, but the values he spent a lifetime championing are acknowledged by a growing number of Chinese as a key element of China’s future politics. The Chinese government should bow to this reality and free Liu. He should be allowed to again take part in the conversation for democratic reform that he has done so much to foster.”
The New Cardinals by Michael Sean Winters: “Most of the names on the list are unknown to those outside their dioceses. We will get to know more about them in the weeks ahead. My guess is that all of them will, in some significant way, reflect Pope Francis’ own approach to ministry, a certain humility, a commitment to the poor, none of the ‘butterfly’ clerical qualities the pope denounced in a sermon last week.”
The Female Face of Poverty by Maria Shriver: “We have the power—not just to launch a new War on Poverty, but a new campaign for equity, for visibility, for fairness, for worth, for care.”
How Pope Francis Challenges the Right (and Left) by John Stoehr: “Perhaps Francis is challenging liberals to expand their moral horizons, too. He’s doing so by reminding us, though without saying it, that laissez-faire capitalism is the historical legacy of liberalism. Free markets, free trade, and globalization are the hallmarks of a liberalized world economy. So while contemporary liberals are gaga for Francis right now, maybe they should reconsider. He’s not only revealed that Rush Limbaugh isn’t a conservative. He’s revealed that Limbaugh is a champion of a certain kind of liberalism.”
Four new echoes in ‘Francis revolution’ by John Allen: “The pope made headlines by telling the mothers present they shouldn’t be embarrassed if they needed to breastfeed their infants, but the more substantive newsflash was that among those baptized by Francis was a little girl, Giulia, whose parents were married only civilly and thus not in the church.”
Pope Francis & Civil Marriage for Catholics by Michael Sean Winters: “He reminded us that God’s superabundant mercy is greater than any of our sins, His love is greater than any of our troubles, and that if the Church is to be truly the Church of Jesus Christ, this ‘rule’ of grace trumps all others in the pastoral care of the flock entrusted to the Church.”
BBC Newsday: Starvation in Syria leaves children eating grass to stay alive: “Activists say many are now starving in Syria, where one father reportedly tried to set fire to himself and his three children in a Damascus street rather than die slowly of hunger.”
Hunger, death in besieged Damascus area by AP: “Children, the elderly and others displaced by Syria’s civil war are starving to death in a besieged camp where women brave sniper fire to forage for food just minutes from the relative prosperity of Damascus. The dire conditions at the Yarmouk camp are a striking example of the catastrophe unfolding in rebel-held areas blockaded by the Syrian government.”
Thinking Church: Fueling our Fire by Adam Brown, Our Daily Thread: “The MCHM spill, which was only the latest in a century-long line of human and environmental disasters in the mountain state, occurred on a Thursday and affected 300,000 residents, 1/3 of the West Virginia’s population. Yet the Sunday talk shows on January 12 were busy discussing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s involvement in the closing of lanes of the George Washington Bridge. Getting to and from the Big Apple quickly is more important than the water and lives of those who extract and transport the cheap energy that powers New Jersey homes, New York commuter trains and high rise office buildings.”
Almost Everything You Read About Parenting On The Internet Is Wrong by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry: “The parenting stories that are all the rage have all the hallmarks of why our current bourgeoisie is insane.”
Does anybody care about human trafficking? by Phyllis Zagano: “The United Nations reports that at any given time, 2.5 million trafficking victims fuel a $32 billion industry. Half are children. Most are younger than 24. For every 800 persons trafficked, there is but one conviction. It is all over the world. It is not stopping. Small scale or large, the slave trade continues.”
Smoking Has Killed More Than 20 Million Americans Over The Past 50 Years by Tara Culp-Ressler: “Lushniak noted that smoking has contributed to the premature deaths of an estimated 20 million Americans since the publication of the groundbreaking report in 1964. 2.5 million of those deaths were related to secondhand smoke.”
Poll: Younger Christians less supportive of the death penalty by Jonathan Merritt: “It showed an even sharper difference in support for the death penalty among ‘practicing Christians,’ which Barna defined as those who say faith is very important to their lives and have attended church at least once in the last month. Nearly half of practicing Christian boomers support the government’s right to execute the worst criminals, while only 23 percent of practicing Christian millennials do.”
Ukraine warns Church over prayer services for protesters by Agence France-Presse: “The Ukrainian government has threatened to outlaw the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for holding prayer services for opposition protesters occupying Kiev’s central square.”
Check out these recent articles from around the web:
The power of Christmas by Michael Gerson: “But Christian influence is not expressed in the grasping struggle for legal rights or political standing. It is found in demonstrating the radical values of the incarnation: Identifying with the vulnerable and dependent. Living for others. Trusting that hope, in the end, is more powerful than cunning or coercion.”
Can Muslim lands learn to tolerate Christianity? by Michael Gerson: “Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we’ve recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls.”
Holocaust History, as Told by a Survivor by NY Times: “Survivors’ stories, like the ones Mr. Schwartz recently told at the Martinum Gymnasium in Emsdetten, are especially important for younger generations who feel increasingly detached from the crimes of their forebears, educators say. Firsthand accounts provide an emotional link to the atrocities that other forms of memorialization simply cannot duplicate.”
Paternity Leave: Why Dads Going Home With Baby is Awesome for All by Hillary Crosley: “Lengthy dual maternity and paternity leave is also helpful to women in the workplace because if both genders are coming home for baby, it reverses the idea that women are expendable and the only ones that can ‘afford’ maternity leave. Paternity leave also puts women on more equal footing at home and in the office because the maternity/paternity leave is no longer gendered, but rather just something that ‘parents’ do.”
Central African Republic needs international help by Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Omar Kabine Layama: “We believe the most effective way to stop the killing is for the swift authorization of a U.N. peacekeeping force, which would have the resources to adequately protect our civilians. The United Nations should urgently move to approve and dispatch such a force. U.S. support for this force will be vital.”
Savings and Internal Lending Communities in Rwanda by Kerry Weber, America: “In the Rugango Parish in the Butare diocese of Rwanda, approximately 30 youth and young adults between the ages of 10 and 25 participate in a Savings and Internal Lending Community, a program introduced by Catholic Relief Services.”
Community Healing and Reconciliation in Rwanda by Kerry Weber, America: “Between 2008-2012, Catholic Relief Services worked with the people of the Rugango Parish and the diocese to create a Community Healing and Reconciliation Program, which fostered discussion and forgiveness among people of the community.”
Check out these recent articles from around the web:
New Front in the Fight With Infant Mortality By Eduardo Porter: “Pregnant women, across the country and anywhere along the income spectrum, will for the first time have guaranteed access to health insurance offering a minimum standard of care that will help keep their babies alive.”
A Call to Moral Theologians: Biotechnology Needs More Attention by Brian Green, CMT: “Hurlbut’s overarching point of was the importance of moral reflection on our growing biotechnological power. Calling cloning and stem cells issues that have the genuine power to change the course of civilization, Hurlbut emphasized the importance of engaging these issues in the right way, because once a path is chosen we may effectively become locked in to the moral outcomes.”
High-School Sports Aren’t Killing Academics by Daniel H. Bowen and Collin Hitt: “Despite negative stereotypes about sports culture and Ripley’s presumption that academics and athletics are at odds with one another, we believe that the greater body of evidence shows that school-sponsored sports programs appear to benefit students. Successes on the playing field can carry over to the classroom and vice versa.”
Why Russia Is Growing More Xenophobic by Ilan Berman: “More and more, Russians from across the political spectrum are identifying with (and organizing around) a national identity tinged with racism.”
Lead Still Major Problem Worldwide by Kevin Clarke, America: “Even though lead poisoning is entirely preventable, lead exposure causes 143,000 deaths and 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Vatican Insider Interview with Bishop Robert W. McElroy: “The statements, the actions and the gestures of Pope Francis have illuminated the scandal of global poverty not with harshness, but with a gentleness of truth that stirs the conscience to recognize realities that one already knows, but prefers not to recognize.”
Don’t abandon the women of Afghanistan By Paula J. Dobriansky and Melanne S. Verveer: “The international community must work to ensure that women’s gains in recent years are protected and that Afghan women continue to make political and economic progress. Any future support for the country’s government must be explicitly tied to continued defense of equal rights and continued progress of female citizens.”
Remembering Genocide in Kigali by Kerry Weber: “Perhaps one of the most notable characteristics of the Kigali Memorial Centre is its simplicity: a small fountain; a stone courtyard; some gardens, with water fixtures flowing through them. And the long, brown slabs of brick marking the graves of 250,000 of the men, women and children who died in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.”
Vatican’s media adviser offers ‘Top 10′ ways to understand Pope Francis by Carol Glatz, CNS: “No matter how some media may want to spin it, Pope Francis won’t fit into the political categories of left or right, and he will challenge everyone with the truth of the Gospel, said the Vatican’s media adviser.”
When We Don’t Feel Like Loving Our ‘Loved Ones’ by Michael Wear: “In some areas of Christian culture, our vision of loving the stranger is expanding while our vision of loving those closest to us is restricting.”
Assad’s War of Starvation by John Kerry: “The world already knows that Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons, indiscriminate bombing, arbitrary detentions, rape, and torture against his own citizens. What is far less well known, and equally intolerable, is the systematic denial of medical assistance, food supplies, and other humanitarian aid to huge portions of the population. This denial of the most basic human rights must end before the war’s death toll — now surpassing 100,000 — reaches even more catastrophic levels.”