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Polish missionaries stay put in C. African Republic amid worsening violence

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 10.02.2014 07:30
A monk says Polish missionaries in the Central African Republic are poised to flee their refuge as ethnic conflict worsens, though they still don't intend to leave the country.
An undated handout photo provided by the UN Mission on 09 February 2014 shows Muslim residents in Kaga Bandoro, some 160 kilometers from Bangui, fleeing towards Chad as they are escorted by armed Seleka militias. Photo: EPA

“We sleep together in one building, and if there is a threat, we will flee,” Father Benedykt Paczek confirmed.

“We have no food, because it is too dangerous to go shopping,” he said.

“And anyway, we have nothing to go in, as Seleka stole two of our cars.”

The predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels carried out a massacre three days ago at the village of Nzakoun, 15 km from the Polish mission, according to the missionary.

“I saw the houses where the people were killed,” he said.

“You could smell the stench of blood in the homes. The victims were buried in the ground. Pots were places on the graves to show the number of victims.”

The monk played down the extent to which the conflict between Muslims and Christians is based on religious beliefs, however.

“It's about the wealth of this country - that is the crux of the matter,” he claimed.

“We met with Seleka twice, and it was horrible,” Father Paczek said.

“We thought they would kill us,” he added.

“But it's just about money, computers, cars and mobile phones.”

Although he has said that he is “ready to flee” his current refuge, Father Paczek added that they intend to stay on in the country, in spite of efforts by the Polish Foreign Ministry to have the missionaries evacuated.

“To preach the Gospel is to be with the people,” the Capuchin monk declared.

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

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. (nh/pg)

Source: PAP

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