By BosNewsLife Africa Service
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (BosNewsLife)– Rights activists have expressed concern over the ongoing kidnappings of clergy in Central African Republic (CAR) after a Polish Catholic missionary was abducted in Baboua, some 550 kilometers (342 miles) north-west of the capital Bangui.
Priest Mateusz Dziedzic was captured last week, October 12, by eight men from rebel group Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), though Poland’s Foreign Ministry said he was “treated well.”
The rebels say they will release the priest only if authorities free their leader Abdolaye Miskine, who was imprisoned in neighboring Cameroon in September 2013.
FDPC was part of the ‘Seleka alliance’ that took control of CAR in a coup in March 2013. Following a dispute with Seleka officials, Abdolaye Miskine left CAR and moved to Cameroon, where he was detained.
In May, United States President Barak Obama announced sanctions against those identified as threatening the peace, security or stability of the country, including Miskine.
The rebels reportedly also attempted to kidnap a second missionary, Leszek Zielinski, but gave up after negotiations. In total, the FDPC is believed to have kidnapped some 12 people in CAR and eight in Cameroon.
And Advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has close contacts with Christians in the region, said the kidnapping of the Polish priest was “not the first incident targeting the clergy.”
On April 16, the Bishop of Bossangoa, Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia, was kidnapped along with three Catholic clergymen by Seleka militants, CSW recalled. They were eventually released near the Chadian border amid international pressure.
However, “We are deeply concerned for the welfare of Fr Mateusz Dziedzic and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas in a statement to BosNewsLife.
“Religious personnel should be able to carry out their work without fear of threat or violence…CSW calls on the international community to ensure that every party to this conflict adheres to humanitarian standards with regard to the treatment of religious leaders and religious establishments,” he added.
The latest kidnapping of priest Dziedzic followed a week of violence in Bangui in which at least 12 people, including two United Nations peacekeepers, were reportedly killed. Properties of Christians were destroyed in the violence, according to rights investigators.
The bloodshed prompted hardline religious Christian and animist fighters, known as ‘anti-Balaka’ to demand the resignation of the transitional president and prime minister and the reinstatement of members of their groups to political positions.
CAR President Catherine Samba-Panza’s office, which has been rocked by a corruption scandal, reportedly condemned plans by “a coalition of negative forces” to create a “third transition”. It urged United Nations peacekeepers to prevent the country plunging into another cycle of violence.
In September 2014, a UN peacekeeping force took over security in CAR, but CSW complained that it has yet to reach full deployment of 12,000 troops.
CSW’s Thomas said the world should “address the threat posed by transnational groups such as FDPC”. He called for the full deployment of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR to assist with security and upcoming elections.
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