Halima, a 25-year-old Muslim, could not hold back tears when we met again recently in Bossemptele, about 185 miles north of Bangui, in the Central African Republic (CAR). She was living under the protection of the Catholic Church, after the anti-balaka militia slaughtered more than 80 Muslims in Bossemptele.
For the past six months, such militias have sought to avenge the devastation wrought by the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebel group, which took power last March in this majority-Christian country.
When we first spoke, two days earlier, Halima said that her husband and father-in-law were among the dead and that she had not heard from her three children since they had run away from the killers.
At that point, there were 270 Muslims left in Bossemptele. Forty-eight hours later, only 80 Muslims remained at the mission — almost all women, children and people with disabilities.
In the interim, a convoy of commercial trucks had come through en route to Cameroon. Those strong enough took their chances: parents abandoned children with disabilities; some men left their wives and kids.
They were desperate to escape the nightmare that the CAR has become for Muslims, who have paid with their lives for the Seleka’s sins.