Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr. Dieudonné Nzapalainga has commended Pope Francis on his efforts in helping to maintain stability during the presidential elections.
Former prime minister and maths professor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, 58 was declared winner of the presidential election in the Central African Republic. He won 63 percent of votes in the mid-February ballot. He will be sworn in as president on March 30.
Ravaged by violence, the Central African Republic has experienced the worst crisis in its history. Manipulating religion for political purposes in the country has caused the death of of thousands and sent many more on the roads to exile and displaced some others.
“We couldn’t have found a better person to take the bull by the horns and begin repairing our country’s fractures,” said Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui. “He’s someone who truly knows the country and is served with good advisers. This election has encouraged us to place hope in the future and put aside our past of firearms, machetes and terrible destruction.”
During an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Nzapalainga said the country’s president-elect has a “real chance” of restoring peace.
“I believe the new president will gather our people from east and west, north and south, reconciling them with themselves and others,” the archbishop said.
“I also believe he’ll make justice possible for the victims of violence, enabling us to stand upright again and work together.”
Archbishop Nzapalainga attributed the non-violent atmosphere and stability during the elections to Pope November visit.
“Since the Holy Father’s visit, we’ve felt a wind of change blowing through our country — there’s been a total turnaround,” Archbishop Nzapalainga added.
“He came as a messenger of mercy and urged reconciliation in our communities. This summons to peace and forgiveness was heard by former enemies and combatants and has now become something real, giving the new president a real chance for peace.”
According to 2010 estimates, about 80 percent of the population of the Central African Republic are Christians.There are just under 900,000 Catholics in the country which represents about a quarter of the total population.
The Presidential election has been repeatedly cancelled because of the years of violent turmoil in the country. The opposition of Christians and Muslims in the country is due to the complex deep history of tensions and resentments incorporating religious and regional associations, from precolonial slave raiding from the Muslim regions in the north to the French colonial delineation and construction of the state in the Christianized south.
According to CNS, Archbishop Nzapalainga said he believed the Pope’s two-day visit, which included interfaith prayers in Bangui’s central mosque, had been a “decisive, catalyzing moment” by enabling divided communities to come together.