BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (BosNewsLife Columns)– Pope Francis plans to visit the Central African Republic this month and you do not have to be Catholic to want to pray for him. For this country – a land-locked former French colony situated between Cameroon and South Sudan – has to be one of the saddest places on earth.
As if to confirm it, the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank that works to promote global prosperity, just released its annual Prosperity Index, which ranks 142 countries in terms of both wealth and wellbeing.
It would be little surprise that heading the list was Norway, followed by Switzerland and Denmark. But right at the bottom, at Number 142, worse even than Afghanistan, Haiti, Chad, Syria or Sudan, was the Central African Republic.
The country has a Christian majority, though the “Operation World” prayer handbook makes clear some of the sins of the church.
CHURCH LEADERS FAILURES
“A failure on the part of leaders to demonstrate Christ-like humility and graciousness in their walk and ministry not only stunts their own fruitfulness but passes on their flaws to their congregations,” it says. “High moral standards and honesty are frequently lacking in the churches.”
Despite considerable natural and mineral resource wealth, the country has been beset by military coups, civil conflict and intense corruption.
This all escalated in March 2013 when Muslim rebel groups seized control of the government.Muslims comprise only about 15 per cent of the population, and since that time the country has descended into bloody violence. It is often described as a failed state in permanent crisis.
Armed Muslim groups have killed thousands of Christians and forced many more to flee.
‘Christian’ militia groups have responded in kind – despite being condemned by many church leaders for their violence – with armed attacks on the Muslim minority. Some 10 per cent of the population are now refugees.
Pope Francis will arrive in the country after visits to Kenya and Uganda. He plans meetings with religious leaders, including senior Muslims officials, and will call upon refugees and attend a prayer vigil.
But as the violence increases, he might even be forced to cancel his visit.
So pray that it goes ahead, and pray that he succeeds in the role of peacemaker. Few countries in Africa – or anywhere – are more in need of peace.
(Martin Roth (www.authormartinroth.com) is an Australian journalist and a former Tokyo-based foreign correspondent. He is the author of “Journey Out Of Nothing: My Buddhist Path to Christianity” and of the Brother Half Angel series of thrillers, which focus on the persecuted church. BosNewsLife Columns distributes opinionated columns and commentaries providing a fresh perspective on issues in the news. They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BosNewsLife News Agency or its parent company.)