At his weekly Sunday noon prayer at the Vatican, Pope Francis made an appeal for the “guns to be silenced” in the Central African Republic.
“Unfortunately painful news arrives from the Central African Republic, a country I carry in my heart, especially after my visit in November 2015,” the Pontiff told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope went on to say that the fighting had claimed many victims, displaced people and threatened the peace process.
He voiced his closeness to the people, the bishops, and to “all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence” in the CAR.
In recent months, roaming militias spurred by ethnic and religious rivalries have stepped up violence despite pledges to take part in a government-led disarmament program, Reuters reported.
According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, at least 22 people, including 17 civilians, were killed during fighting between the two groups this month in the western town of Bria. Nearly 10,000 others were forced to flee the bloodshed.
The Central African nation has been plagued by inter-religious violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters seized power and ousted then-President Francois Bozize.