by Mohamed Abdiweli
A Few Questions?
“What current crisis has killed over a thousand Muslims and has left nearly 2 million more displaced?” most common answers would be Palestine, Syria or Afghanistan but very few Muslims Americans would know about the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Muslim minority of the CAR have been the target of a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign. It’s currently believed that over six thousand people are believed to have been killed and 2.2 million, about half the population of CAR, have been displaced and in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict that began in December 2013 (Reuters).
Despite the brutality of the violence and that Muslims have been the victims, there been minimal discussion or outrage from the Muslim American community about this conflict. Just as in previous and current conflicts in Sudan, the famine in East Africa or the massacre of the Rohingya community in Myanmar, our community has been apathetic or ignorant about these issues, when we should be leading efforts to raise awareness and end these crises. Would it even be outrageous to claim that this crisis is being ignored due to privilege or ethnic polemic has permeated our charity and activist culture?
The conflict erupted last year when President Michael Djotodia, a leader of a mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group (composed of militias from neighboring countries) led a takeover of the mostly Christian nation. In opposition to the coup, Christian militias known as the Anti-Balaka were formed and anti-Muslim hysteria ensued. In addition to the political power play, the control of the nation’s valuable gold mines and national resources has played a role in the conflict. (AP Press) The uprisings lead to successful removal of Djotodia this past January but the carnage and onslaught against the local Muslim minority has only ramped up.
This brutal ethnic cleansing campaign has driven mostly defenseless people in fear of being beheaded, hacked to death, burned in their homes or raped by machete-wielding thugs. Muslims displaced by this conflict are finding escape in refugee camps and safe havens provided by churches, surprisingly. The clergy of various churches in CAR have been willing to step up and protect the minority community at the great risk to their own lives. Such courage, leadership and cooperation that stand out amid the slaughter are to be admired and supported. But as the conflict gets worse and as time is working against them, there is only so much that they can do.
What is being done?
These religious leaders have been virtually alone in their efforts to protect the vulnerable such as children, the elderly and the disabled are increasingly being abandoned because when their caretakers have either been killed or fled for their own lives. But their resources are incredibly limited and running out. Previous to the current crisis, these communities have co-existed peacefully. CAR historically has been free of religious strife, in fact most of its cities were diverse and inter-faith marriages were common.
A solution to end the insanity of religiously-fueled violence requires the collaborative efforts of the world community. But the response of the international community has been slow and inadequate to this catastrophe. Currently 6000 African Union and French soldiers have been deployed to help the government protect civilians from the violence back in February. 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon back in February has yet to be approved. In response, the European Union has announced on March 31 that they’ll be sending 1000 peacekeeping forces to help stabilize the country. (Reuters) As the carnage continues, it’s clear that hasn’t been enough to help end to violence and provided adequate relief for the displaced victims.
What can we do about it?
As this conflict worsens, we as a Muslim community need to unite to come up with solutions and pull our resources to stop and prevent these senseless acts of violence. Think of the strength the Muslim community has when it’s a protest for Palestine or to defend the Prophet (PBUH). We need to harness that energy for this conflict. We need to unite with the Christian communities and support them in condemning these anti-Christian acts.
We should be inspired by the Muslims and Christian leaders who come united at the heart of this conflict, working non-stop to protecting victims and end this sectarian violence. But let’s step up together and include the larger global faith communities that can easily help end this conflict. Whether it’s raising awareness of the crisis, since the media does not bring light to these issues, we need to demand accurate coverage and promotion of any efforts to advert this. Even something as simple as promoting awareness of the crisis between friends, family and your community. And please donate to the various on the ground causes that have been helping the victims of the crisis.
“Surely the men and women who give in charity and give to Allah a goodly loan, they shall receive double and for them is a noble reward.” (Qur’an, 57:18)