BANGUI – As sectarian violence continues to cast new victims, Muslims in Central Africa Republic have asserted their hopes to restore peace in their country, where Muslims and Christians lived in harmony for decades.
“We have always lived with Christians in harmony and we wish the sectarian violence here ends soon and we return to our normal lives,” Sheikh Ahamadu Misil, a Muslim scholar who works for Islamic Humanitarian Assistance; a local NGO that provides assistance to Muslims in CAR and in neighboring Cameroon, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, December 11.
Sheikh Misil was referring to the violence that ripped Centeral Africa Republic recently after President Michel Djotodia declared himself the country’s first Muslim leader after ousting President Bozize on March 24.
Taking the helms of power, Djotodia has struggled to rein in members of the now-dissolved Seleka group that swept him to power.
According to news reports, rogue former rebels turned warlords have set up little fiefdoms and sown terror in villages.
On the other hand, Christian militiamen, known as "anti-balaka", launched reprisal attacks against Muslims, killing scores and forcing thousands outside their villages.Chanting anti-Muslim slogans, militia men, armed with machetes and clubs, have destroyed a large mosque in Bangui and set several nearby parked cars afire.
Destruction was not limited to Bangui mosque after witnesees confirmed that at least three other smaller mosques had also been attacked in Bangui last Tuesday.
According to Sheikh Misil, Muslims were fed up with the violence and yearned for the restoration of peace and security.
“This violence must stop,” he pleaded.
As the attacks intensified in CAR, many Muslims were forced to leave their villages, living in makeshift camps.
Others, however, preferred to stay in door, praying to Allah to restore peace in their country.
"We're currently indoors," Sheikh Misil said.
"If the situation improves, we plan to visit Christian neighborhoods and tell them we want to live with them in peace as we did before."
Osman Yusuf, another Muslim resident of Bangui, shared a similar opinion.
"I saw a lot of dead bodies last week," he told AA by phone.
"I pray for peace to return. Christians and Muslims must learn to live together," he added.
The country of nearly five million people is mostly Christian, with about 15 percent Muslims who are concentrated in the north.
At least 400 have been killed and hundreds more injured since last Thursday when Christian militias, loyal to the CAR's ousted President Francois Bozize, launched multiple attacks from the north, according to the UN humanitarian office.
According to UN estimates, the latest violence has forced more than 400,000 people – nearly ten percent of the country's population – to abandon their homes.
The increasingly sectarian nature of the violence has heightened international fears that the nation was on the brink of all-out civil war.
The different religions have always coexisted peacefully and leaders from both sides have urged people not to confuse the fact that there is a Muslim leader, with the “Islamization” of the country.
Nevertheless, Sheikh Misil was optimistic that peace would eventually be restored to the country.
"The world needs to unite and save the people of CAR from ongoing sectarian violence," he pleaded.
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