Peacekeeping forces in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Photo: EPA/Legnan Koula
“At midday we heard the sound of cars,” Father Benedykt Paczek told Polish Radio on Thursday evening.
“Cameroon soldiers from the MISCA [African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic] had arrived,” the Capuchin friar said.
“A feeling of great joy immediately broke out. It was a kind of liberation,” he added.
The Polish missionaries had witnessed repeated outbreaks of violence in recent weeks, with ongoing clashes between the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels and Christians.
Fighting escalated in the country after interim Muslim leader, President Michel Djotodia resigned on 10 January, prompting Seleka fighters to pull out of the capital of Bangui.
The Polish foreign ministry has been encouraging the Capuchin missionaries to evacuate the country, through cooperation with French authorities.
France, the former colonial power in the region (until 1960), has 1600 troops stationed in the country, and it is working with 4000 peacekeeping troops from various African countries.
However, the missionaries have repeatedly stressed their wish to stay in the region and provide aid.
“To preach the Gospel is to be with the people,” Father Paczek stressed earlier this week.
Nevertheless, the Capuchin friar has confirmed that both he and those in his care will sleep easily now for the first time in many days.
At present there are 35 Polish missionaries in the Central African Republic.
A fortnight ago, fifty Polish pilots and logistics specialists flew out to the country to assist in the stabilization mission. (nh)