After the UN quells the Central African Republic

With the United Nations Security Council approval of a French-African Union force in the chaotic Central African Republic, the next step should be restoring Christian-Muslim harmony, village by village.

AP Photo
Two-year-old Dany sits in a Catholic church where she and others sought refuge in Bangui, Central African Republic Dec. 5. Heavy gunfire erupted in the capital Thursday. The United Nations authorized an intervention force into the anarchic nation.

With rare unanimity, the United Nations Security Council voted Thursday to authorize the use of foreign troops in the Central African Republic to restore civil order. While the military intervention may help curb the spreading violence between Christians and Muslims, the larger task will be to restore the country’s moral order.

Under the UN mandate, France and the multination African Union plan to deploy as many as 4,600 soldiers in a country with 4.6 million people. The United States has promised $40 million in support. If the deployment fails to end the violence, the UN will consider sending 9,000 of its peacekeepers. A similar UN force recently helped defeat a rebel group in nearby Congo.

Since a coup in March, the impoverished but mineral-rich Central African Republic has descended into chaos. Muslim rebels have raided villages, pushing Christians, who form a majority, to set up defensive militias. The potential for genocide has escalated with each massacre and other atrocities in the former French colony.

The violence has caused a breakdown in the coexistence long enjoyed between Muslims and Christians. The social and religious compact has been usurped by local warlords trying to plunder the country’s wealth and take control of the capital, Bangui. About 10 percent of the people have now been displaced, with aid groups hampered in reaching them.

While the UN resolution calls for a commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations, the country needs more than justice. The foreign intervention should also facilitate an interreligious dialogue that will help renew the bonds of each community. Military action is not enough. Each village needs help in healing the wounds of hatred.

Fortunately, even amid the fighting, many religious leaders – Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim – have worked together in a few communities, not only to calm tensions but to take care of the displaced. This recognition of a common faith in each other’s humanity can be the basis for restoring the country’s civilian government.

France plans to hold a meeting of African leaders in Paris on Saturday to discuss what will happen once foreign forces bring peace. The ultimate response to the armed militias is not the UN-approved force of arms. Rather, rebels must also see that civilians of all faiths prefer to live together without violence and with mutual respect.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to After the UN quells the Central African Republic
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2013/1205/After-the-UN-quells-the-Central-African-Republic
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe