Central Africa Rebels Force Muslims to Abandon Faith, Group Says

Muslims returning home to ethnically cleansed regions of the Central Africa Republic are being forced to abandon their faith by Christian militias, Amnesty International said.

Some Muslims living outside the protection of United Nations forces in the country’s west have been coerced to convert to Christianity, the London-based rights group said Friday in a report. The fighters, known as anti-balaka, have also banned reconstruction of an estimated 400 mosques destroyed in two years of upheaval, as well as the wearing of traditional Muslim clothing, it said.

“Having forced tens of thousands of Muslims to flee western CAR, anti-balaka militias are now repressing the religious identity of the hundreds of Muslims who remained or who have returned,” Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser, said in a statement.

The nation has been gripped by lawlessness since an alliance of mainly Muslim anti-government militias known as Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize in March 2013. The takeover was marked by the widespread killing of civilians. Reprisal attacks followed against Muslims by predominantly Christian fighters.

At least 3,000 people have died in the violence, while more than 2.7 million need humanitarian aid and about 830,000 have fled their homes to neighboring countries or camps because of the violence, according to the UN.

The Central African Republic ranked as the world’s 10th-biggest diamond producer by value in 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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