Catholic Priest Nominated to Receive Special Award for Sheltering 1,500 Muslims

Veronica Neffinger | iBelieve Contributor | Thursday, March 17, 2016

Catholic Priest Nominated to Receive Special Award for Sheltering 1,500 Muslims

A Catholic priest who leads a mission in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been nominated to receive an award for aiding both Muslims and Christians amidst the country’s sectarian violence.

Christian Today reports that Father Bernard Kinvi, a missionary from Togo, opened a church in the CAR as well as a mission hospital.

The CAR has been ravaged by violence and conflict between Muslims and Christians, many of whom only have loose ties with their religions.

Muslim and Christian leaders from the CAR have condemned the conflict and Father Kinvi has opened his church as a place of refuge for those fleeing the violence.

In 2014, one of the most violent attacks occurred. The nominally Christian group, the anti-Balaka, attacked Muslims in Bossemptele, the town where Kinvi conducts his missionary work.

Kinvi spent days searching for survivors of the violent attacks and sheltering them in his church. At one point, he was giving shelter to around 1,500 Muslims.

“It wasn't a decision; it was just something that happened," he later told the Guardian. "As a priest, I cannot support the killing of a man. We're all human: religion doesn't come into it. If anti-Balaka come in wounded, I treat them.”

"I don't care who you are or what you do with your life or what your religion is, you are a human being and I will treat you,” he continued.

Kinvi received threats from the anti-Balaka for aiding the Muslims whom the anti-Balaka said they would kill. Kinvi, however, was able to get them to safety in Cameroon. 

“When I became a priest, I undertook to serve the sick even if it meant putting my life in danger," Kinvi said.

"I said that but I didn't really know what it meant. But when the war came, I understood what it means to risk your life. Being a priest is about more than giving blessings; it's about standing with those who have lost everything."

Because of his brave actions, Kinvi has been nominated as a possible recipient of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity which will be awarded in April. The award is given to to “individuals who put themselves at risk to enable others to survive.”

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Publication date: March 17, 2016