By BosNewsLife Africa Service
BANGUI/WARSAW (BosNewsLife)-- International peacekeepers have reached Polish Christian missionaries who were trapped in weeks of looting and violence in troubled Central African Republic, Polish media reported Friday, February 14.
"At midday we heard the sound of cars,” said Capuchin friar Benedykt Paczek. "Cameroon soldiers from the MISCA [African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic] had arrived," the priest added, from his post near the border with Chad.
"A feeling of great joy immediately broke out. It was a kind of liberation," he told Polish radio.
The Polish missionaries, of the Catholic Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, reportedly witnessed repeated outbreaks of violence amid ongoing clashes between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels and religious Christian fighters.
Fighting escalated in the country after interim Muslim leader, President Michel Djotodia, resigned on January 10, prompting Seleka fighters to pull out of the capital of Bangui, observers said.
WANTING TO STAY
The Polish Foreign Ministry encouraged missionaries to evacuate the country, through cooperation with French authorities, but many decided to stay, said Pacek.
He said missionaries have repeatedly stressed their wish to stay in the region and provide aid. “To preach the Gospel is to be with the people,” Paczek told Polish media earlier.
France, the former colonial power in the region until 1960, has 1600 troops stationed in Central African Republic and is working with some 4,000 peacekeeping troops from various African countries.
Wish many peacekeepers now roaming the streets, the Capuchin friar said both he and those in his care were sleeping "easily now for the first time in many days."
There are at least 35 Polish missionaries in the Central African Republic, including many Capuchin friars, according to Polish media. Some 50 Polish pilots and logistics specialists flew out to the country to assist in the stabilization mission, Polish radio's website said.
(BosNewsLife's MISSION WATCH is a regular look at missionaries working in the two-thirds world and other difficult areas and related developments).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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