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CRS worker: Churches attacked, crisis worsens in Central African Republic


  • A woman sits in St. Joseph Cathedral in Bambari, Central African Republic, in this 2014 file photo. A Catholic Relief Services official says the situation in the Central African Republic is worsening, as church centers are attacked and more armed groups fight over territory and resources. (CNS photo/Tanya Bindra, EPA)
  • Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga of Bangui, Central African Republic, is seen at the Vatican Nov. 19, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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OXFORD, England (CNS) -- A Catholic aid worker warned of a worsening crisis in the Central African Republic, as church centers are attacked and more armed groups fight over territory and resources.

"Perhaps the situation is better in Bangui, the capital, but elsewhere conditions are deteriorating dramatically as conflicts multiply," said Christophe Droeven, country representative for the U.S.-based Catholic Relief Services.

"At least 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting since April, and the number here and abroad now totals close to a million. Nongovernmental organizations are being increasingly targeted, and it's becoming harder to help those in need," he told Catholic News Service July 24.

He said aid organizations had evacuated their representatives from Bangassou to escape "looting and harassment" by a mainly Christian militia, Anti-Balaka. He said troops with the U.N. peacekeeping force, MINUSCA, had been unable to protect aid convoys.

"Although the peacekeepers are doing what they can, there aren't enough of them," said Droeven, who has headed CRS projects in Africa for 18 years. "They're overstretched and under-resourced, and there are too many obstacles and difficulties now for aid to reach the most deprived."

Bangassou became a flashpoint when heavily armed rebels attacked its Muslim quarter May 13, cutting telephone lines and leaving 115 dead, including six MINUSCA soldiers, according to the International Red Cross.

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