Father Bernard Kinvi: Catholic Priest Risks His Life to Help Muslims


Father Bernard Kinvi, who recently won a Human Rights Watch Award for his work, believes the conflict in CAR is misunderstood.
Through the Violence, Good Shall Prevail

Father Bernard Kinvi, a Roman Catholic priest, was recently awarded by the International NGO Human Rights Watch group for an award meant to “honor people of valor who have put their lives on the line to create a world free from abuse, discrimination and oppression.” This brave man put his own life on the line to come to the aid of thousands of Muslims caught in a massive, ethnic-religious cleansing that began in March 2013.

The Central African Republic is at War

Until recently, the Central African Republic (CAR) held a surprising lack of religious conflict. Of the 4.5 million citizens, only 15% were Muslim, while the rest identified as some variety of Christian, often mixed with Animist beliefs.

March 2013 brought the Seleka, a Muslim rebel group in the East of CAR. They marched for Bangui to establish rule, enforcing various rules and killing anyone who disagreed. As the abuse skyrocketed, the Antibalaka, a largely Christian group, began to come into the picture. The battle waged on, and Father Bernard Kinvi treated them all, even amidst death threats from the leaders.

Father Kinvi: A Catholic Hero

Kinvi experienced up-close the hatred and violence possible in human beings. He found himself frustrated by certain assumptions made by others, which he called “dangerous strains of ignorance.” Many assumed that the slaughter was caused by Muslims and Christians.  However, according to Father Bernard Kinvi, based on the Antibalaka’s belief in talismans for protection and initiation practices, they are actually animists. The other, he says, is the question of how “God can allow this to happen.” In response he says:
“Lots say it’s all down to God, but don’t blame God. It’s humans being so evil; God’s nothing to do with it. It’s an abdication of responsibility.”

Father Benard Kinvi strove to save all the lives he could, sheltering them in the Catholic Church. In spite of death threats, he continued to negotiate with the attackers. During several instances, he expected to die. “I had great moments of fear,” he said. “But I had taken a vow and that was to help the sick, even if my own life was at risk. That was not a vow meant lightly and when the moment arrived, I had to keep it. I had no other choice than to stay and help.”

Father Bernard Kinvi gives a glimpse into the world that not many give us anymore. He strove to save lives, and do what was right by his own morals and values. He valued human life before he cared what anyone’s religion was.


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