The bishop who was set free

Editor’s Note: Kevin Clarke, senior editor and chief correspondent for America magazine, is reporting from Central African Republic and is touring programs operated by Catholic Relief Services. His blog posts are being published by Catholic News Service under a special arrangement with the magazine. This post was filed May 12.

By Kevin Clarke

“The general security situation in this country is awful,” says Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic.

“Terrible,” he adds, shaking his head sadly.

Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic. (Courtesy of America magazine)

Bishop Nestor-Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, Central African Republic. (Courtesy of America magazine)

Behind him, across the grounds of the archbishop’s residence in Bangui where he is visiting in early May, the Ubangi River drifts serenely between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic as men in dugout canoes ferry people and products from one side to the other. This night in Bangui would probably be little different from many of the others in recent weeks. The overall level of violence has declined a great deal since anti-Balaka and Seleka forces were in open combat in February and March, but each day brings new outrages against some unfortunate Christian or Muslim man from one side or the other and a new round of reprisal attacks.

Sadly, the bishop has had firsthand experience with just how awful the security situation in Central Africa can be. He has personally survived a kidnapping attempt that appeared to be on its way to a summary execution. Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia considers himself fortunate to have “national or international status.”

“People organized at the national level [and] at the international level for my freedom. Many people in this country wouldn’t have the same chance and their deaths would have passed unknown to everybody.”

Traveling northeast, 215 kilometers from Bossangoa to Our Lady of Conception Church at Bantangafo, on April 16, the bishop planned to restore its priests and observe Holy Thursday with the community. Instead he was seized at a roadblock manned by Seleka rebels.

Read more here.

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