Tension in Africa between Christians and Muslims rising

By: CHRIS ZIMMER – Columnist, Sophomore

The Central African Republic is torn with strife and chaos as Christians fighting in the “anti-balaka” militias execute “de facto ethnic cleansing” by exiling and killing of Muslims, as reported by the United Nations.

This bloodshed is not going unnoticed, however. The U.N. and France, which was the former colonial power that ruled this African country of 4.5 million until 1960, announced back in November that the Republic was on the verge of genocide.

The instability in this landlocked country is further fueled by a weak government infrastructure with the most recent President, Michel Djotodia, and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, were being forced to resign from office with out even a year of rule under their belts. Djotodia led a vicious attack on the Christian population and assumed power in 2013 after overthrowing former President Francois Bozize.

This chaotic conflict hasn’t been prominent in American news, yet what we’re witnessing is practically the pre-cursor to an all-out genocide.

More than 5,000 troops from the African Union haven’t been able to keep the peace and the European Union says they will be sending reinforcements to the Republic over the next few weeks.

Even in a country containing a plethora of mines that hold vast amounts of gold and diamonds, the U.N.’s World Food Program says its aid isn’t enough to help those in living in dire poverty and struggling with displacement from the violence.

Christians, who make up more than half of the population in the Republic, initially formed the militia “anti-balaka” or “anti-machete” as a self-defense unit to protect against poachers, bandits and rebels from other factions.

The retaliation of the Christian “anti-balaka” militia against the Muslim rebel group Sèlèka has only deepened the rift between the people of the Republic. Public executions define daily life and families are being forced out of their homes on a regular basis.

Amnesty International has estimated more than 1,000 have died due to sectarian violence and 25 percent of the nation has fled since December.

It surprises me that the fighting in Central Africa is not a prominent news story, at least here in the United States.
It carries with it a global impact adding to the refugee population and causing further tension on the surrounding countries: Cameroon, Sudan, Chad and the Congo.

This isn’t just two groups of people bickering at each other. It’s a religious war between people in the same country who profess to believe in the same God. It’s a horrible and depressing situation that keeps recurring time and time again.

This horrific conflict sits behind headlines like the Olympics and the Michael Dunn trial. How can it be even less important that George Zimmerman’s plea of post-traumatic stress disorder and Ellen Page’s coming out?

Human rights matter. Human rights deserve news headlines.

I’m very thankful Human Rights Week holds events such as interfaith prayer services because they demonstrate a sense of unity and love for others who have beliefs other than our own.

Christians and Muslims in Africa need to know that violence has done little to solve their problems and that coming together with peaceful and practical dialogue will promote stability and better well-being for all. Our campus is a great example of this peaceful unity and tells the world that it is possible for both religious groups to live in harmony.

We should continue to pray for our human family in Africa and realize that there is more going on in the world than the bogus news headlines that are given to us by the major news networks.