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Bishop Nestor Azagbya Nongo of Bossangoa and three diocesan priests were kidnapped and later released. Credit Valerie Kaye/Caritas

Bishop Nestor Azagbya Nongo of Bossangoa (centre) and three diocesan priests were kidnapped and later released. Credit Valerie Kaye/Caritas

Bishop Nestor Azagbya Nongo of Bossangoa and three diocesan priests were kidnapped on 16 April in Batangafo in the Central African Republic.

They were on a pastoral visit as part of Holy Week celebrations. They were taken to Kabo on the border with Chad by their kidnappers.

African Union peacekeepers (Misca) stopped an ex-Seleka convoy as it headed for Chad with the kidnapped men. They released the bishops and the priests.

Caritas Central African Republic President Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga condemned the attacks on the men of God.

Seleka were the militia force that held power in Central Africa until December last year. They’d launched a crackdown against Bossangoa in September. Hundreds of houses were burned down and many were killed.

The Catholic Cathedral compound was the last refuge for 41,000 people.

Bishop Nestor played a leading role in providing food, healthcare, protection and shelter to the people, with the support of Cartas.

The bishop also led community peacebuilding initiatives, saying the only future for the Central African Republic is one which includes both Christian and Muslims.

He stayed in the cathedral compound throughout the three month siege, a symbol of hope for thousands of people fearing for their lives.

Freedom came just in time with the arrival of African and French peacekeepers. The Seleka fighters fled in large numbers to Chad. Collapse of law and order has continued to cause chaos in the Central African Republic.

Caritas has continued providing aid in Bossangoa, working in villages were over 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed or damaged.

By early February, 3,500 rural households had received household items and tarpaulins.