Juan José Aguirre Munoz, a Spanish-born Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic (CAR), has given refuge to 2,000 Muslims who are living in fear of attacks from a mainly Christian militia. Munoz’s church compound is based in the south-eastern city of Bangassou.
CAR has been experiencing sectarian violence since 2013, when the largely Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, and were accused of killing non-Muslim civilians.
Self-defense groups called anti-Balaka formed in response to the power seize by Seleka rebels. Anti-Balaka groups have also been accused of atrocities.
The UN believes that thousands have been killed in the violence and at least a million people have been displaced in CAR since in the last four years.
Munoz has been sheltering Muslims at his seminary since May 2017. He told the BBC’s Newsday program, “Nearby, there are anti-Balaka militias who prevent [Muslims] from going out to search for food, water or firewood… they are completely confined inside the seminary. They would risk death if they ventured out.”
Munoz is concerned that many aid organizations have stopped working in Bangassou.
Stephen O’Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations, warns that severe violence is possible. “The early warning signs of genocide are there. We must act now,” O’Brien said. “Violence is intensifying, risking a repeat of the devastating destructive crisis that gripped the country four years ago.”
In the BBC Newsday interview, Munoz stood for humanity: “For us, there’s no such thing as a Muslim person or a Christian person, everyone is a human being. We need to protect those who are vulnerable.”