Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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The Nun and the Imam: a message of peace for CAR

The Nun and the Imam / UNHCR / B. Sokol

14 October 2014 – The Central African Republic (CAR) has been devastated by months of violence between Christians and Muslims. More than 5,000 people have been killed and thousands fled the country. Nearly 67,000 refugees fled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2012.

However, glimps of hope emerge. Zongo, located in DRC near the Oubangui River flowing between the two countries, is home to two courageous people determined to cultivate the seeds of forgiveness and peace: Imam Moussa Bawa and Sister Maria Concetta.

Sister Maria, an 80-year old nun, has worked as a midwife in Zongo hospital since 1984. She sometimes works around the clock to help women give birth, including refugees from CAR.

“It is now the third time we assist refugees here because of political complications in Bangui,” she says. “We have always helped sick refugees at our hospital, but also welcomed them in our kindergarten, primary, secondary and technical schools.”

Zongo hosts the referral hospital for nearly 15,000 people who live in Mole refugee camp. When they can’t be treated at the health centre there and require surgery or long-term treatment, UNHCR transfers them to Zongo. Refugee women are also transferred to the hospital if there are complications when they give birth. The nuns accept everyone – to them, there is no difference between patients, even those who can’t pay.

The Nun and The Imam / UNHCR / B. Sokol

Like Sister Maria, the 72-year-old Imam Moussa Bawa also helps refugees arriving from CAR. While Sister Maria focuses on helping sick refugees gain access to treatment and sending refugee children to school, the Imam focuses on teaching them forgiveness and reconciliation. He welcomes refugees who fled CAR to his home, listens to their problems and offers advice.


“We have to talk to one side and the other side and then create an opportunity to bring both sides together,” the Imam says. “Sometimes, I preach only about patience. I tell people to be patient and to forget the past. I know that if someone has killed your son, your father, it is impossible to forget until you die, but it is possible to forgive. God also forgives.”

Both Moussa Bawa and Maria believe the problem in CAR is a political one. They never witnessed any religion tensions between Christians and Muslims in Zongo, and remain hopeful for the future and believe peace will return to CAR.

“There will be reconciliation with time, but not for the moment,” the Imam concludes. “We have to start step by step. This Friday again, I will talk about patience [at the Friday Prayer]. I say that if someone has hurt, do not hurt him, you have to forgive him. They listen to me sometimes. I remain hopeful that things will get better, ‘Inshallah’.”

Read the full story on UNHCR TRACKS.

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