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Polish missionaries attacked in Central African Republic

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 04.02.2014 09:27
Polish missionaries came under attack on Monday as fighting escalated between Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic.

Refugees, Central African Republic. Photo: wikipedia

Capuchin missionary Father Benedykt Paczek has told Radio Plus that he took cover in an educational centre after the main building of a mission in Ngaoundaye was raided by Muslim rebels.

"It was terrible, we could see the flames," he told the TVN24 news channel.

"There are no victims, but houses have been burnt," he said.

Paczek said that he has spent much of the last two weeks moving from one hiding place to the next.

Meanwhile, over seventy people have died in recent days during clashes in the town of Boda.

Fighting escalated in the country after interim Muslim leader President Michel Djotodia resigned on 10 January, prompting Muslim fighters to pull out of the capital of Bangui.

Some 1 million people have been displaced by the conflict so far.

France, the former colonial power in the region (until 1960), has 1600 troops stationed in the country, aided by 4000 peace-keeping troops from various African countries.

Fifty Polish pilots and logistics specialists flew out to the country last week, to assist French troops in the stabilization mission.

In late January, a Capuchin mission led by Father Robert Wnuk in Bocaranga witnessed more violence.

“It was an apocalyptic day,” he told ACN News.

“Shooting and detonations could be heard everywhere. There were numerous groups of 10-15 rebels each. They forced their way into all the rooms. The refugee women were sitting there on the floor with their children. The rebels threatened the priests and also fired on the church.

“They fired and fired and fired as if they were crazy.

“Protective troops have been in the country for some months. But in reality they are only in Bangui. They supposedly came to protect the civilian population.”

Missionaries reluctant to evacuate

Poland's foreign ministry has appealed to missionaries to agree to be evacuated but the clerics are proving reluctant to leave refugees.

“We don't want to evacuate, we want to protect,” Father Paczek told TVN24.

“The purpose of our presence here is that they [the local inhabitants] feel safer.”

The foreign ministry has said that it remains in contact with the missionaries, and that it will continue to encourage Polish citizens to leave the country.

“When we receive a clear signal that they are asking for evacuation , then we will proceed with the action, together with our French partners,” assured foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski.

“A few days ago we increased our warning to the highest level, which is: 'leave immediately,” he noted. (nh)

Source: PAP

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