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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

an embracing church

During these days, an UN commission has been investigating the human rights violations happened here. Since March, when the Seleka rebels arrived in Bozoum, there have been continuous violence against human rights: arbitrary arrests, illegal incarcerations, tortures, humiliations and killings. The ONU commission met with the victims, then with the rebels, who denied everything just in front this cells in which several people had been arrested during the UNvisit.....

Since last Saturday, the 27th of October, in Bouar, a grave crisis struck. Everything began with an attack against the Seleka rebels. They are called the "antibalaka" few hundred men, but we don't know the precise number. Probably there's little politics behind all this, and it's all down to the reaction of desperate people who saw their houses burnt, their family killed, robbed and their liberty taken away.
On Saturday morning these antibalaka tried to occupy the airport and the military camp, but the Seleka rebels won against this attack.
With all the shooting the Bouar population panicked and went asking for protection in the several churches nearby: Fatima, St.Laurent (1.400 people) and the cathedral (more than 6000 people)
Thankfully the MISCA was there, and protected the refugees.

On Wednesday morning I went there, in Bouar, which is 250km far from here. I got there about 3.30 pm. I met with local authorities (among them the prefect who left the city just before the attacks and came back just that moment) the FORMAC military, the Seleka representative and some from the local population. People are so frustrated because of lack of authorities during the attacks, and because of the tension all around: some Muslim carry knives with them, as the feel they might be under attack from the antibalaka. The people feel completely helpless.

After the meeting I went to the cathedral: so many people! It was really striking to see all those men, women, children. Everyone seemed quite calm now, and everyone was busy with preparing some lunch, or bathing a child or talking. Nevertheless it is obvious they are very worried to go back home. Thankfully the FORMAC military from Gabon are doing a great job protecting them. There are also volunteers from the local parish, from caritas, and justice and peace who try to mantain order, safety and hygiene. Most of all the tireless  abbĂ©  Mirek, the episcopal bishop here. There's a team of nurses and a doctor who set up a small hospital in the old cathedral, there are the Claris nuns praying and a woman gave birth under their porch.
At 6pm more people came, they spent their day in the neighborhood, but prefer to spend the night here. All the parish rooms are full, the porches, the welcoming centre, the cathedral. On Thursday morning, people were still there, despite several invitation to go back home. It's understandable, they are afraid to leave a safe place. At 11 we set back home, but in Baoro our clutch gave in. My brothers borrowed me a car: a 21 years Suzuki!
Until Bossemptele everything went ok. Then 50km far from home it went off. Lucky chance a friend passed by, he cleaned the car's filter so I could set off again, but only for another 10 km. then same thing happened. I cleaned filter and tubes, car started again, pushed by two shepherd basing by.
I managed to get up to the mission, then 50 meters from the gate it eventually died. 
Today is all saints day. My eyes are still full of the images from Bouar, where the defenseless and the weak found protection and comfort. I'm so proud of that church!

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