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Bishop sees hope in neighbouring African countries despite trauma

Food for the hungry: A man fills a bag with cassava, also known as manioc, at the Ubangi River near the border between Congo and Central African Republic in this February photo. Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, visited the conflict-ridden neighbours South Sudan and the Central African Republic from July 10-21. Photo: CNS/Legnan Koula, EPA

Food for the hungry: A man fills a bag with cassava, also known as manioc, at the Ubangi River near the border between Congo and Central African Republic in this February photo. Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, visited the conflict-ridden neighbours South Sudan and the Central African Republic from July 10-21. Photo: CNS/Legnan Koula, EPA

AMONG almost a million people displaced from their homes through conflict in the Central African Republic are 9000 people who have found refuge at a seminary in the capital, Bangui.

An “unbelievable number of children” were among these refugees at St Mark’s Major Seminary, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said, noting that the mean age in the country was 18.

“Everyone there has been traumatised. They have all witnessed atrocities,” he said, noting that the “generosity and kindness” of the Church authorities who keep the seminary’s gates open to those fleeing violence “serve as an example of how to react in a crisis”.

Bishop Pates, who chairs the United States bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, visited the conflict-ridden neighbours South Sudan and the Central African Republic from July 10-21.

Thousands of people have been killed in the Central African Republic since the majority Christian state descended into ethno-religious warfare in March 2013, and almost a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million inhabitants have been displaced.

Bishop Pates said the former French colony had a “strong presence” of French and other peacekeepers, with the result that Bangui was secure and there were “continuing efforts to secure the rest of the country”.

“People seem to have a glimmer of hope that enables them to start up their lives again,” he said in a July 20 telephone interview from Bangui.

CNS

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