On this Easter weekend, I'm thinking of places that need to experience some kind of resurrection. And high on the list is the Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have been at each other's throats for more than a year.
Conflict between religious communities is always ugly, always embarrassing, always disheartening, and that only begins to describe what's been happening in the CAR.
As Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson reported recently, "A little more than a year ago, Muslim Seleka rebels (including some Chadian rebels and mercenaries) seized power. They constituted a state that purposely demolished the structures of the state — looting, destroying public records and attacking Christians. Christian militias called anti-balaka organized and armed, at first in self-defense. Soon they were attacking Chadians, then all Muslims as supposed accomplices of the Seleka."
All of this and more, Gerson writes, is happening "in a country with little history of religious conflict. It seems to be another case (as in Syria) in which political leaders fed religious divisions, which then took on a monstrous life of their own."
There's an important lesson here: People of faith must be extraordinarily careful in their political alliances and extraordinarily careful not to become pawns in political maneuvers.
We see much less violent examples of such untoward faith-politics connections in this country when politicians seek to enlist people of faith into their armies by playing up stances on such divisive issues as abortion and equal rights for gays. Too often, people of faith fall for this and wind up simply being exploited while their own religious traditions often get compromised.
So in the case of the Central African Republic, I think it behooves Americans to press our political leaders to work with international peacemakers to stop the bloodshed and unplug religious groups there from the violence. It's hard work, but the more faith-to-faith warfare is allowed to continue the more religion in general is damaged.
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PICTURES OF A TOGETHER COMMUNITY
I was not able to be at the "Service of Unity and Hope" at the Jewish Community Center on Thursday but Religion News Service has put together this slide show of what went on there. The Kansas City community continues to mourn the loss of three people. What a sad time and a maddening time, too, in the face of murders that seemed to grow out of irrational hatred.
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