Media CenterCatholic Bishop in Central African Republic Calls on Congress to Support Peace
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Catholic Relief Services
WASHINGTON, DC, February 11, 2016 -- The Vice President of the Central African Republic (CAR) Catholic Bishops Conference submitted testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asking Congress to support his country as it emerges from years of violence.
The Most Reverend Nestor Désiré Nongo Aziagbia, bishop of the Diocese of Bossangoa, said that the aim of his remarks was “to raise with you the issues that we are facing in CAR and to urge the United States to continue its leadership as a partner to the people of CAR to assist us to build a peaceful and prosperous country the inhabitants have been craving for.”
CAR has suffered violence, much of it along religious lines, dating back to a coup in March, 2013, although recent months have brought a lessening of the conflict.
“We fully support the testimony of Bishop Aziagbia,” said Bill O’Keefe, Vice President for Advocacy at Catholic Relief Services (CRS). “CRS has worked side-by-side with the Catholic Church in CAR since 1999 providing seeds and tools to farmers, emergency aid to displaced people, food, shelter and savings accounts to families, and peacekeeping, social cohesion, protection and resilience support to communities. United States support will be crucial as CAR and its people work to take their place among the world’s peaceful, stable nations.”
In his testimony, the bishop thanked the U.S. for its support during the years of conflict, saying that this helped put a transitional government in place and will lead to presidential elections on February 14.
“People are returning to their homes and the level of violence is down significantly,” he said, pointing to the visit of Pope Francis to the country last November as an important step in lessening of tensions. He said the Catholic Church has played an important part in building peace during the last three years, noting the work by CRS and other Catholic agencies to end the violence.
“It is now time to build a new country out of the embers of our current crisis,” Bishop Aziagbia said, asking for aid in building good governance, a vibrant and well-regulated private sector and a strong civil society.
“We call on the United States, a real beacon of liberty and freedom, to join us to build a new CAR,” he said, saying that the history of his country has been one of oppressive governments using the private sector for their own gain while stifling development of a civic society that could form a meaningful opposition.
"Today I urge you to rally the international community to help us rebuild from our civil strife to create a new country,” Bishop Asiagbia told the committee. “You are a country and a people who, many years ago, fought your own civil war to establish freedom from slavery and build a better union. You also know how long it took to ensure that African Americans could exercise their civil rights."
“It is those victories that reunited you as one nation to rise to the world power that you are today. I ask you now to help us tend to what Abraham Lincoln called ‘our unfinished work...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom’.”
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.