Project Highlights

US Spiritan Paul Flamm assisting in Central African Republic

November 10, 2014

A number of months ago, the Spiritan Superior in Central African Republic, Patrick Mbea, appealed to the General Council to see if it could assist by identifying a Spiritan team that would be deployed to Bangui to respond in a primarily pastoral way to the chaotic situation of displaced people there. The French and Tanzanian Provinces kindly agreed to release Gabriel Myotte-Duquet and Paul FLAMM from their commitments in their home provinces to go to the Central African Republic. The initial commitment is for six months, during which they will assess the needs on the ground and seek to identify where Spiritans could make a particular contribution to the displaced population there on a more permanent basis. Below is an edited version of their first interim Report

“As a result of the fighting that broke out between the Seleka and the anti-Balaka militias, in December 2013 and January 2014, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are over 60,000 displaced people at 34 sites in Bangui alone, and over 410,000 total displaced throughout the country. Another estimated 420,000 people have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. Many non-governmental aid agencies are already on the ground working alongside the major international organizations. We recently met with Abbé Elisé Nguedjande, the director of Caritas Nationale, who agreed to help us get permission to attend the weekly meetings of the UN agencies and the NGOs working here. This will enable us to begin to know them and what each one is doing”

“After almost two months in the country and under the guidance of the Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa, eight sites for the displaced in and around Bangui have been visited as a part of an initial assessment of what is currently being done to help the people. The populations vary from a few hundred to thousands. For example, at the St Marc Bimbo Seminary, there are still 7,600 people. An additional 6,500 people were said to have fled their homes in a recent outbreak of violence, with many taking temporary refuge at the Parish of St Paul where the archbishop’s compound is located”

“The ministry will be based in Bangui, with an outreach to selected parishes outside the city and in other dioceses of the Central African Republic where possible. It will be carried out under the umbrella of Caritas National, of which the Spiritan Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, is the president. It will be one of listening, consolation and promotion of peace & reconciliation, especially for those who have fled their homes seeking refuge, protection and some peace of mind. Many of the sites for the internally displaced are situated on Church properties, therefore, our ministry will be carried out in collaboration with the parish priests and religious communities who have responsibility for their pastoral care. Many have lost everything, including family members We intend to prepare a series of reflections on peace and reconciliation, whether at sites for the displaced or with parish communities”

“At some sites, the refrain on everyone’s lips is: “We suffer from hunger” and “Our children are hungry.” We have seen some women who are little more than skin on bones. Such sights are difficult to accept when one realizes how much food in other lands is thrown into rubbish bins supposedly for health reasons or simply because it doesn’t match the taste of consumers.”

“We also encounter many children, almost all of whom have lost their fathers during the fighting. The vast majority have not gone to school for two or three years due to the political instability and the deteriorating economic situation. Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga has asked us to pay particular attention to their education. Once the academic year begins, recently rescheduled for November, we will see more clearly what the situation is in order to take initiatives in this area of concern, in conjunction with the NGOs already providing aid for children.”

We recall the words of Pope Francis:

I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else”

Please remember in your prayers these and all Spiritans who work with the victims of war and violence.

The General Council

10 November 2014