CAIRO – Leading Islamic relief and charities groups worldwide have joined hands with UK’s official Catholic aid agency to help more than 2.5 million people in Central African Republic who were directly affected by the ongoing crisis.
“Our visit strengthened our resolve that by working together as Catholic and Muslim charities,” Dr. Hany El-Banna, Chair of the Muslim Charities Forum, said in a statement published on CAFOD agency website.
“We can be of immediate practical help and also send out a strong message of unity and hope,” he added.
Dr, El-Banna’s group is one of several charities who made a visit to Central African Republic last month to help the affected population by the ongoing war.
Along with the Muslim Charities Forum, CAFOD, UK’s Catholic aid agency, Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid returned last May 4 to warn that more than half the population of CAR risk going hungry as a result of instability.
“We saw shocking levels of destitution among families, who had exhausted all means of coping with this crisis. As a result, our agencies are going to provide immediate help to communities in Bossangoa,” CAFOD’s Emergency Coordinator, Catherine Mahony, said.
“Our support will enable 10,000 families to get the food they need so that they can provide for their families in the difficult months to follow. CAFOD’s partner Catholic Relief Services will be working with the UN Food Program, WFP, to ensure that these families receive emergency food aid.”
CAFOD will be working alongside the British Muslim charities to support the immediate distribution of seeds and tools so, where appropriate, communities can take advantage of the current rainy season.
CAR, a mineral-rich, landlocked country, descended into anarchy in March of last year when Seleka rebels ousted François Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
Anti-Muslim violence has escalated since Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian, was elected interim president in January.
She replaces Michel Djotodia, the country's first Muslim president since its independence from France in 1960, who stepped down earlier this month due to international and regional pressure.
Christians, who account for the majority of the country's population, accuse Muslims of supporting former seleka rebels blamed for attacking Christian homes, looting property and carrying out summary executions.
Visiting the war-hit areas, Imran Madden, Head of Islamic Relief’s Humanitarian Department, said that they were surprised with the level of cooperation between the country’s religious associations.
“We were humbled by the many brave and courageous people we met, who are deeply committed to helping those caught up in the violence,” he said.
“Churches and mosques throughout CAR are providing vital refuge for displaced people, often at considerable risk to their own safety.
“They are working to deliver much needed humanitarian aid, as well as building bridges between people caught up in a worrying cycle of distrust, fear and vengeance,” he added.
Since the eruption of the conflict last December, about 1 million Central Africans have been internally displaced inside the republic.
Moreover, more than 82,000 central African Muslims have fled to neighboring countries including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Chad.
The death toll has also climbed to more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, including women and children, the refugee agency stated.
Despite of deploying hundreds of forces, French troops failed to protect the Muslim minority, attacking their protests and allowing mass killings by anti-balaka Christian militias.