Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic

carBy Fredrick Nzwili

(RNS)  A cycle of violence in the Central African Republic is quickly degenerating into a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, amid a deteriorating humanitarian crisis, church leaders and U.N. officials warn.

The landlocked nation of 4.6 million people has experienced chaos since March, when an Islamist rebel alliance known as “Seleka” overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, and installed rebel commander Michel Djotodia as president.

Seleka was formed in December 2012, when Islamists and other rebel groups from Chad and Sudan joined forces. The militants had crossed into the country, attacking government installations and destroying churches and church missions, businesses and homes, Christian agencies report.

In the latest development, the U.N. said Wednesday that some 2,000 people were seeking shelter at a Catholic mission in the city of Bouca, in the northwest of the country.

Hopes for peace had grown after Djotodia disbanded the Seleka in September, but sections of ex-Seleka fighters are still attacking villages and church centers.