Muslims face religious persecution in Central African republic

Amnesty International has condemned the ongoing violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR), saying Muslims face religious persecution in the country.

Members of the anti-Balaka militia in the Central African Republic (CAR) (AFP photo, file)
Members of the anti-Balaka militia in the Central African Republic (CAR) (AFP photo, file)

A report released on Friday cited evidence that the anti-Balaka militants force the Muslims in the western CAR to hide their religion or convert to Christianity.

“We have to hide, do it quickly, and do it by ourselves,” said a trader in Sangha-Mbaere Prefecture, adding that it is effectively impossible to pray in the face of incessant threats by the Christian militia.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled the CAR over the past two years as the anti-Balaka rebels keep committing widespread human rights abuses against them. The violence began when a coalition of Seleka rebels ousted long-time President Francois Bozize in 2013.

The Amnesty report, entitled “Erased identity: Muslims in ethnically cleansed areas of the Central African Republic,” said the refugees who have returned to areas in western CAR are exposed to constant threats from the Christian militia to abandon their religion.

“Having forced tens of thousands of Muslims to flee western CAR, anti-Balaka militias are now repressing the religious identity of the hundreds of Muslims who remained or who have returned,” said Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser Joanne Mariner.

The report said attacks against Muslims and forbidding them from practicing their religious happens in areas not supported by the United Nations peacekeeping mandate, calling for renewed efforts for the protection of the Muslims who are under threat.

It also said more should be done to bring back those Muslims who have escaped violence.

“Many of the tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who were expelled from the country in 2014 would one day like to return home, but are waiting until they can do so in a safe and sustainable manner,” said the report.

Since January 2014, the CAR has been run by a transitional government. Presidential and parliamentary elections in the country are scheduled for October 18.

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