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As rebel groups and soldiers ravage the country of Central African Republic (CAR), the international community fears the possibility of religious genocide. The rebels, known as “Seleka” (meaning “Alliance”), have been pillaging villages, raping women, conscripting children as soldiers, and brutally murdering innocent victims in recent months. Sources estimate that approximately 10 % of the population has been displaced.

The rebel group’s former leader, Michel Djotodia, ousted the country’s president earlier this year. He later disbanded the Seleka rebels, but the violence has continued unabated. The majority of the rebels are Muslims, some of whom have come from neighbouring countries such as Chad and Sudan.

Approximately half of the population of CAR is Christian, a quarter is Muslim, and the remaining has indigenous beliefs. While Muslims and Christians have largely lived at peace together, the ongoing attacks from the Seleka rebels threaten to unravel the country’s unity. Armed Christian groups have formed to defend themselves; however, some have launched counterattacks on Muslim communities. As the violence continues, both Christians and Muslims are becoming increasingly hostile towards one another and the fighting is taking on a more religious tone.

A concerned church leader stated, “The Christians feel betrayed by the Muslims and are starting to feel vengeance in their hearts…. This is a very big challenge for the church.”

Sources: Huffington Post, CTV, The Guardian