Scene of a refugee camp in the Central African Republic.

A refugee camp in the Central African Republic. photo courtesy of Bossangoa Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Religious leaders, playing an ever expanding role in the troubled Central African Republic, are urging reinforcements for an existing peace mission, even as the United Nations prepares to roll out a bigger one in September.

On Thursday (April 10), the U.N. voted unanimously to deploy 12,000 peacekeepers to the country, where chaos linked to Christian and Islamist militias’ revenge attacks are continuing. Already, France has 2,000 soldiers in its former colony, joining 6,000 African Union forces.

But while welcoming the announcement, religious leaders urged immediate support for the existing mission to prevent the country from sliding further into chaos.

“As the force will only be deployed by September at the earliest, we urge that strong and immediate support be given in order to improve security at this crucial time,” said Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui on Thursday, in a joint statement with Imam Omar Kobine Layama, CAR’s most senior Muslim leader, and the Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance.

Over 2,000 people have died in the violence since December and two million others are in need of humanitarian aid.

The church remains the only functioning body, Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala, Cameroon, told Fides news agency after visiting CAR in April.

“The State no longer exists,” said Kleda. “The only institution that is functioning is the Catholic Church. Actually, the displaced are living in Catholic parishes.”

Bossangoa Bishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia said lack of clear leadership and some leaders in neighboring Chad were complicating matters. He claims Chad is dividing CAR by creating a protectorate in the north to resettle fleeing Muslims.

YS/AMB END NZWILI

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